A GOOD PERSON
March 24, 2023 / Warner Bros. Pictures Canada
Florence Pugh, Molly Shannon, Chinaza Uche, Celeste O'Connor, Morgan Freeman
Daniel (Morgan Freeman) is brought together with Allison (Florence Pugh), the once thriving young woman with a bright future who was involved in an unimaginable tragedy that took his daughter’s life. As grief-stricken Daniel navigates raising his teenage granddaughter and Allison seeks redemption, they discover that friendship, forgiveness, and hope can flourish in unlikely places.
Written By Darren
Rating 3 out of 5
A Good Person features the talented performances and wonderful pairing of Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman, who alone are reason enough to check out Zach Braff’s latest film, that even though some moments are over dramatic, provides an honest and heartfelt look at loss, grief, forgiveness and addiction.
Films dealing with addiction and grief have a tough balancing act as the writing has to both emotionally bond the audiences with the characters, their trauma and their struggles, while not overplaying them so the dramatic weight of the situation is lost. These types of films tend to rely heavily on the performances of the lead actors as the characters are the most important part of the film, which is where writer and director Zach Braff is incredibly lucky as he has the ever talented Florence Pugh and screen legend Morgan Freeman carrying the entire film on their shoulders. The base that Braff has created for his stars is good, even if his writing does waver at times, but it is the star power that truly brings this film to life.
Allison is happily engaged to the man of her dreams, living her best life. But after a tragic and fatal car accident, her life is forever changed, leaving her in both physical and emotional pain. This results in Allison becoming addicted to opioids, and while trying to seek help by attending an AA meeting, she runs into her fiancé’s father Daniel, the last man she wants to see. However, this starts an unlikely bond between Allison and Daniel that allows both of them to heal from the traumas of their past.
There is no denying that it is the performances of Pugh and Freeman that are the highlights of the entire film. Pugh once again proves herself as one of the most talented actresses of her generation with a truly sublime performance. Layering the loss, personal struggle and addiction all shaping Allison’s life, Pugh is absolutely captivating as she continually breaks Allison down to her most vulnerable state while slowly rebuilding her as a human being. The raw vulnerability that Pugh brings to the role captures something that cannot be written on the script, causing you to hang on her every word, especially during her first introduction at the AA meeting which is one of the most heartbreaking and emotionally moving moments of the film. Also, Pugh displays some great singing abilities, proving that there is nothing that she cannot do.
Opposite her is Freeman as Daniel, her would-be father-in-law, trying to pick up the pieces of his family’s life after the tragic accident while trying to make up for the mistakes in his past. Freeman is warm and inviting throughout the film, creating a calming presence with moments of true wisdom as he tries to help Allison through her recovery. At the same time, Freeman brews a darkness within Daniel that could break out at any moment while carefully, barely holding it together, creating a relatable character trying to both forgive and move on with his life. As a screen pairing, Pugh and Freeman are exquisite, creating moving and incredibly captivating moments throughout the film which helps hold your attention.
The supporting cast is good, especially young Celeste O’Connor who has the meatiest of the supporting roles as Daniel’s granddaughter Ryan. The majority of her scenes are with Pugh and Freeman, both of whom she creates an instant connection with on screen and during which she showcases a true talent that she has not been given the chance to flex in previous roles. Molly Shannon has some good moments as Allison’s mother, utilizing her natural comedic talents to great effect, while Chinaza Uche’s role as Nathan, Allison’s fiancé, is not given the screen time that his character deserves despite having a wonderful chemistry with Pugh. Though, they are all supports for Pugh and Freeman who are the stars of the film.
As amazing as Pugh and Freeman are throughout the film, the film is led astray at times by the writing. On one hand, Braff has written an honest and deeply emotional film that tackles grief, loss and forgiveness in a beautiful way. The complex relationships and emotions between the characters, forever linked by the fatal accident, plays out in a way that never feels forced or over dramatic. There is a painful honesty guiding these relationships that instantly tugs on your heart strings, allowing you to see every side of this incredibly difficult situation as all of them are trying to move on with their lives, coping with their grief and seeing if they can ever forgive for what happened. When the film is focusing on this element of the story, Braff’s writing is incredible.
Where the film stumbles is where it focuses on the addiction problems of the characters. There are scenes where the addiction is written in a natural manner, such as the AA meetings, creating moments that amplify the emotional arcs of each character. But when Braff goes for the more dramatic moments, involving relapses and true feelings towards the addictions to be on display, the film is over dramatic. The result is taking this wonderful character study and momentarily making it feel like a television soap opera, removing the emotional honesty from the film in favour of shock value. While it is effective in shocking you and propelling the problems of the character forward, it sidelines what makes Braff’s screenplay so intriguing.
Even with the sacrifice of emotional honesty in the story for shocking, soap opera moments revolving around addiction to propel the characters to their breaking point, there is something undeniably honest and heartfelt about Zach Braff’s writing. While it is probably not a film that I would watch more than once, there is no denying the sensational work by Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman in the lead roles that makes for a memorable screen pairing, resulting in A Good Person being well worth a watch if you are a fan of either of these actors.