4.3.2.1

I gave Vantage Point a lot of flack after I watched it for its plot structure, which ruined what might have possibly been an otherwise decent thriller. Its central gimmick involved telling a short series of events from multiple perspectives, only showing us a brief glimpse before rewinding, doing it all again with another character, and getting maybe five minutes further down the line. It became tiresome after the third or fourth time. I mention this now because 4.3.2.1 uses this structure, but shows how it can be used to great effect.

In this film, the four central characters split up after the first few minutes, and then we see how their lives played out for the next three days. Each story from this point forward is remarkably different, ensuring there’s no boredom to be had, and we also learn things in later stories that were confusing earlier on. The reveals are effective, and you might want to rewatch 4.3.2.1 right after you see it the first time to catch some of the things that you missed during the earlier viewing.

The movie stars four young women, all from various walks of life, who are somehow the tightest of friends. They’re about to become involved in an international diamond heist, although not in the way that you’d expect. And the diamonds aren’t really the point of the film, or the main focus; they just sort of pop up every now and then in order to further the plot. And I’m okay with that. It gives the marketing department something to work with and allows for a touch more intrigue than each individual story would have on its own.

In order, the stories go like this: (1) Shannon (Ophelia Lovibond), someone already suffering from depression, winds up having an awful time. Her friends won’t speak to her, her mother decides to pack up and leave for good, she’s chased, mugged, abducted, and so much more. The most emotional story is this one, and I feel like it’s a good way to open up. It also gets to showcase a dark side to Ophelia Lovibond, and she proves up to the task.

(2) Cassandra (Tamsin Egerton) heads to America in hopes of both meeting an online lover, and also auditioning for a piano teacher in order to get into some super-exclusive program. Stalking, racism, virginity, and determination serve as this story’s themes, as there’s a lot for the rich, na├»ve Cassandra to learn from her travel.

(3) A lesbian woman named Kerrys (Shanika Warren-Markland) has to fight with her family about her sexuality, and then fight with her brother about both normal brother-sister things, as well as the shady activities he’s been getting involved with lately.

(4) An American transplanted to London, Joanne (Emma Roberts), has to work several night shifts at a 24-hour convenience store, during which there are robberies, horrible and abusive co-workers, and it basically turns into the worst couple of shifts you could imagine working. Here, we touch on the importance of learning how to say “no,” even when that’s not the type of person you are, as well as some more relationship problems.

Each story has multiple points, and many of the people in the audience — in particular, the teenagers in the crowd — will be able to relate to them. Co-director and writer Noel Clarke has a strong understand of youths, and what problems affect them, and also knows that these issues can impact adult members of the crowd, too. The diamonds are the lure, but once you’re in, you find out that he has something to say. That the film is stylish, frenetic and never dull is almost a bonus at this point, I think.

It’s also pretty great to see that none of these girls play “victim,” each knowing how to take a stand against anyone who tries to do them wrong. It might not be a straight “girl power” film, but it gives off those vibes at times. Almost all of the male characters are evil, after all. If only the filmmakers didn’t find time to flaunt them around in their undergarments, too, but I guess we can’t have a complete winner in that regard. Most of the young actresses do a good job in their roles, and the writing is significantly better than the average “teen” movie — possibly because it’s not aiming for a PG-13.

4.3.2.1 takes a gimmicky plot structure that has ruined films in the past (Vantage Point) and does something good with it, using it to tell distinct stories and reveal new information right at the necessary point. Each story is thematically distinct, and they’re all different enough for you to not get bored during any of them. The actors are game, the film has a “girl power” vibe, and there’s even a diamond heist if the drama itself isn’t compelling enough for you. All in all, I quite enjoyed 4.3.2.1, and I recommend checking it out.

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