People are rarely either good or bad. Humanity isn’t that neat and tidy. Our thoughts, words, and actions are all more likely to fall into a gray area that falls somewhere ono the spectrum between the two. Good intensions can lead to bad consequences. Life is complicated like that. Written and directed by Zach Braff, A Good Person, explores the choices we make and the resulting consequences of our actions. It’s a brutal and heartbreaking film, anchored by emotionally devastating performances by Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman, that forces us to confront our grief but also leaves you with an offer of hope. Be sure to bring tissues because you’re going to need them.
Allison (Florence Pugh) has what some would say is a perfect life with a wonderful home, gorgeous looks, and a loving fiancé in Nathan (Chinaza Uche). Everything changes while Allison is on the way to try on wedding dresses with Nathan’s sister and her husband and Allison crashes into a backhoe that pulls out in front of them. Allison is the only survivor. A year later and Allison is back home living with her mother (Molly Shannon) after having broken up with Nathan over the guilt of the crash. Even though her physical wounds have healed, she finds herself addicted to pain pills in order to deal. Meanwhile Nathan’s father Daniel (Morgan Freeman) is still struggling with the death of his daughter and trying to raise his granddaughter Ryan (Celeste O’Connor) as well. They eventually find each other attending the same AA meeting, and while Allison is initially reluctant to take Daniel’s offer of help, the two eventually get to talking in the hopes of healing their wounds.
A Good Person is a lot of film. Not only does it tackle guilt but also loss, addiction, and even the impact of technology. It juggles all these themes and does so without dropping any of them. The majority of that is thanks to Florence Pugh’s brilliant performance. There is a rawness to her struggle to cope with the life that has been dealt to her. We only get to see a brief glimpse of the fairytale life she had laid out in front of her before it’s all taken away. Not only is her life irrevocably changed but also the lives of Nathan, Daniel, and Ryan. Nothing is finite. Good people can do bad things and vice versa. At the heart of the film, however, is that it’s never too late to change. You just have to want that change.
Both Allison and Daniel struggle to move on from the accident. Allison turns to pills while a sober Daniel seems to be coping much better but still keeps a bottle of liquor in the cabinet as a reminder or possibly “safety line.” In his past, he wasn’t a good person but rather an abusive drunk who took it out on his children. He’s trying to rectify that with his granddaughter now, but the guilt is still there. A Good Person confronts its demons with a brutal honesty. Daniel isn’t afraid to tell Allison how he feels. There are uncomfortable moments and conversations. Dialogue doesn’t always flow perfectly. Like real life, it can be messy and jumbled. But the message is clear. It’s never too late to be a good person.
Zach Braff is oftentimes great at balancing humor with heartbreak and despite all the devastating drama of the film, there are also some moments of levity. It doesn’t all work and some of the jokes fall flat when surrounded by such serious tones. It is nice to have a break between the blows, however. The score fits the tone of the film as well and for those familiar with any of Braff’s previous work you’ll know how meticulous the music can be. A Good Person is no different. It maximizes every element for full effect.
A Good Person is a complicated film that can feel overwhelming. It deals with a lot of heavy emotions and is rarely pretty. Like life, it can be messy at times, but there is hope. Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman are magical together, delivering a story that is authentic yet brutal. It grabs you at your core and doesn’t let go. There is a purpose to all its complications. A Good Person does a good job in showing that.
A Good Person is a brutal and heartbreaking film, anchored by emotionally devastating performances by Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman, that forces us to confront our grief but also leaves you with an offer of hope.