26th April 2023

A Good Person review: Riveting drama is rooted in reality

A Good Person offers a compelling meditation on grief, anchored by Florence Pugh’s lead performance and moving acting abilities.
A Good Person review: Riveting drama is rooted in reality
Photo: MGM

The opening of Zach Braff’s latest feature matches the generic quality of its title. A Good Person’s protagonist Allison (Florence Pugh) swims with her head submerged, only surfacing as the shot transitions to an elaborate train set. Accompanied by a tinkling piano, Morgan Freeman soothingly explains a clunky metaphor: how model train sets allow their owners to exercise control amid the chaotic unpredictability of life.

Following her engagement to fiancé Nathan (Chinaza Uche), Allison drives into the city with her future sister and brother-in-law to look at wedding dresses. She glances at her phone for a few seconds too long, causing a car crash which severely injures her, and kills them. Death by car accident is an age-old cliché in films, but the way this scene plays out is arguably less predictable than it could’ve been – so long as you haven’t seen the film’s trailer.

A year later, Allison is still reeling from the aftermath of the accident – having broken her engagement and become addicted to painkillers. Pugh’s emotionally raw performance exquisitely accentuates her character’s downward spiral. A bitingly sarcastic exchange with her local pharmacist conveys Allison’s pitiful desperation. The extent to which addiction has compromised her integrity is further evidenced when she threatens to blackmail an old pharmaceutical colleague for OxyContin, and demeans herself in front of former classmates for a hit. 

A Good Person also highlights the strain that addiction places on familial relationships, through the dynamic between Allison and her mother Diane (Molly Shannon). In a particularly crushing exchange between the two, Diane’s empathy towards Allison blocks her from helping her daughter to get the long-term support she needs – even when she’s directly asking for it.

One day, Allison wanders into a support group session where she encounters Daniel (Morgan Freeman), her would-be father-in-law who is now tasked with raising his orphaned 16-year-old granddaughter Ryan (Celeste O’Connor). Though he resents Allison for her role in his daughter’s death, he insists that she shouldn’t leave the group on his account. The two share stories about Nathan, teenage girlhood, and more – developing a heartwarming camaraderie.

The duality of Daniel’s character feels confusing, with his sage commentary and amicable nature being difficult to reconcile with his volatile temperament and admission of previous abusive behaviour. Though Braff likely intended for Daniel to reflect moral complexity, his binary characterisation renders this aim unattainable. 

Still, Braff includes a healthy balance of overt emotional displays and quieter, introspective moments where grief is the elephant in the room, lingering between the characters. When Allison is finally ready to share her story with the support group, Pugh delivers a heart-wrenching monologue which exemplifies the earnestness that permeates the entire story.

A Good Person is a deeply moving film which explores the suffocating effects of grief and guilt on the human condition with nuance and dignity. 


A Good Person will be available to watch on Sky Cinema from April 28. 

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