Director of A Good Person, Zach Braff, has gone from acting on Scrubs to directing some episodes of major projects like Ted Lasso and Shrinking, evolving his goofy humour to dramedy pieces that really showcase the good, the bad and the strange sides of humanity. Of course, Scrubs was all of those emotions in one series, and I think Braff was able to show his directing chops by ratcheting up the emotional pathos in this film.
The story follows a young woman named Allison (Florence Pugh) who was engaged to a man named Nathan, both settled in a small New Jersey town a train ride away from New York City. They were one of those ‘best-shipped couples’ that even many of the characters repeatedly said was a couple meant to be throughout the film. Sadly, Allison, her sister-in-law and her husband all ended up in a tragic accident.
Allison was the only one to make it out of the crash, and almost everyone on Nathan’s side of the family (except Nathan) blamed Allison, including Ryan, the daughter of her in-laws, and her father-in-law, Daniel (Morgan Freeman). The movie primarily takes place a year after the crash, when Allison seems to have separated from Nathan and she has moved back in with her mom—this was where the hints began that Allison picked up an addiction to Oxycontin.
A Good Person was a dark drama—yet cheeky—that had a Florence Pugh that reminded me more of her roles in movies like Fighting With My Family—without the outright hilarity. While she has shown off a lot of her Marvel heroics and works with historical timepieces in Little Women and Don’t Worry Darling, this movie allowed her to present her skills in a modern setting again—not to say her performances were worse in those roles. Something about her in a modern-day environment makes her feel more grounded and down-to-earth.
Acting alongside Pugh was the Academy Award-winning Morgan Freeman, who smothered the screen with his soothing narration voice as usual. However, it is always a surprise when he swears and gets angry in a role—and A Good Person allowed him to do so masterfully. He acted as a great pseudo-antagonist/supporting character to Pugh. Together, they fought against one another on-screen, and they laughed together too.
This on-screen duo seemed strange initially but made so much sense for the characters they were playing and the scenario they were put into. It reminded me of how Only Murders In The Building combined the talents of Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez to make a charismatic trio that I did not believe on paper.
A Good Person pummeled me with tear-jerking moments of sadness and filled me with anguish and rage. It really nailed the feelings of overcoming addiction in a not-so-Cinderella-happy-ending way. The film took many turns and setbacks for many characters, even Molly Shannon, who played Allison’s mother, Diane—same with Daniel’s granddaughter, Ryan (Celeste O’Connor).
Every time a character who was struggling through their own issues and pain made progress, A Good Person had me reeling in my seat—that was how much I could feel their pain. The addiction issues really hit home with how patients on Oxy could easily become addicted to the drug, despite it being a painkiller. I learned all about the shady prescription drug through the Disney+ series, Dopesick.
“By the end of A Good Person, I felt enlightened and bittersweet about the obstacles these characters went through.”
The comedic quips were really a breath of fresh air from Pugh and Freeman, just the casual satirical moments they shared. The film had one or two old people jokes about how Freeman did not know how a certain app on his phone worked, but I felt like Braff reined it in enough not to make it a big deal. It was a great portrayal of realness when an elderly person really wants to learn about modern technology, especially in case of trouble.
At first, I was weirded out by the way Allison and Nathan’s relationship was depicted because they did not really give me a sense of why they should be together. About halfway through, I got that Nathan was not going to be a fully fleshed-out character—even though he had a significant role in Allison’s life. It was not until the end of the film I truly unfolded the layers of Nathan but told more through the storytelling snippets from other characters. This was a bold choice for a story on interpersonal relationships and the stagnation of life with tragedy.
If you have seen the show This Is Us, this was like a condensed, canned version of that series. By the end of A Good Person, I felt enlightened and bittersweet about the obstacles these characters went through. The muddiness of addiction, grief and loss aggravated my heart, pulling and tugging. I was genuinely left pondering what it really meant to be ‘a good person’ post-viewing. If you are up for a believable life story, symbolism with train sets, and some killer performances, be my guest and commence the waterworks.