A Good Person
Films & TV
“Florence Pugh’s and Morgan Freeman’s performances are dazzling. Pugh, in particular, is entrancing – absurdly charismatic in the film’s first 30 minutes before the accident, and then absolutely believable in her rolling avalanche of misery,” says Jonathan Sargeant from St Francis College
Who can say how any of us will respond in the aftermath of a horrendous event? We might hope that our sense of self will shine through, and we’ll make it through okay. “Make it through” is relevant because something life-changing changes your life. It’s not just about the moment after, but the weeks and months after, the next year after…
Allison (Florence Pugh) is living the dream. She has an adoring fiancé, an ascendant job and the love of her family and close-knit friends. But a split second of lost attention causes a car accident that sends her life down a different path, with the death of her fiancé’s sister and the sister’s partner.
Jumping a year, Allison is battling grief and an addiction to opioids. Hope has vanished and a return to living with her mother (Molly Shannon) brings further challenges. In immense pain and at her lowest ebb, she drags herself to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting to encounter…Daniel (Morgan Freeman), father to the dead woman and her former fiancé.
Daniel is a difficult man. He is struggling to raise his teen granddaughter (Celeste O’Connor), has his own struggles with alcohol and is estranged from the son Allison was to marry who bears the scars of this abusive relationship. But when she turns to flee that first meeting, Daniel pushes past his anger to urge her to stay. How can these two broken people make their way out of the tunnel of grief, and back to lives worth living?
Writer/director Zach Braff made a name for himself with a few sadness-tinged dramedies since his time on goofy-with-a-heart sitcom Scrubs back in the 90s. Garden State, his first directorial effort is fondly remembered by many. But was that success lightning in a bottle as some have been suggesting?
A Good Person has much to commend in its slightly overlong running time. Florence Pugh’s and Morgan Freeman’s performances are dazzling. Pugh, in particular, is entrancing – absurdly charismatic in the film’s first 30 minutes before the accident, and then absolutely believable in her rolling avalanche of misery. She elevates this film above the occasionally pedestrian nature of the dialogue.
Freeman is the best he’s been in a decade, though you could argue the steady gravitas he brings to this role is not a stretch. What is wonderful is the nuance he elicits from his less-than-perfect character – grief, pain, confusion mixed with world-weary experience as a cop. For that we can excuse a couple of “You get to play God?” style jokes at Daniel’s expense, harking back to Freeman’s onscreen appearances as the deity in both Bruce and Evan Almighty.
Beyond Pugh and Freeman, Braff’s script struggles tonally at moments. If you can accept the coincidence of Allison meeting up with Daniel at that NA meeting, you may also withstand a moment or two where the humour/sorrow balancing act is a little shaky. Maybe life is like that? Some of this is countered by a few moments of well-written stark truthfulness – one bar scene is especially raw and devastating as Allison tries to obtain pills and instead encounters past school acquaintances who are not shy in their brutality at her current situation. The shame is palpable.
A Good Person is slightly less than the sum of its parts, but some of those parts are so outstanding, this is probably Braff’s best film in years. Florence Pugh remains an actor whose films you actually seek out; she is that good. There are misgivings, which mean A Good Person is good rather than excellent, but to feel the light of forgiveness at the end of the tunnel, this is an affecting film worth seeing.
A Good Person, rated MA15+ and directed by Zach Braff, is currently showing in cinemas.
Editor’s note: Interested in learning more about film, the Arts, and the many intersections with life and faith? Jonathan Sargeant will be teaching DA2003Z / DA9003Z – Theology and the Arts at St Francis College in 2024. Please contact Sheilagh, Dean of Students via firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.Jump to next article