A Good Person
Florence Pugh strengthens the pedigree of her critically and commercially lauded young career with another gutsy, powerhouse performance, opposite a crowd-pleasing turn by Morgan Freeman, in Zach Braff’s flawed look into addiction and grief.
Pugh’s Allison is on the verge of a fairytale marriage with her fiancé, Nathan (Chinaza Uche), until an unforeseeable tragedy pulls them apart, leaving her physically and psychologically broken. A year down the line, Allison has yet to piece the fragments back together. Instead, she languishes in her mother’s home, refusing to acknowledge her continued dependence on prescribed painkillers. Meanwhile, Allison’s would-be father-in-law, Daniel (Freeman), a hardened ex-police officer and Vietnam war veteran, struggles to maintain his hard-fought-for sobriety in the aftermath of the tragedy, and, beginning to buckle under the strain of taking care of his orphaned grandchild, Ryan (Celeste O’Connor), resumes his attendance at alcoholics anonymous. In a contrived, yet permissible, plot point, Allison coincidentally joins the same meeting to begin tackling her own addiction. Subsequently, the two begin an unlikely, odd-couple friendship, and the film itself begins to take the shape of a meditation on suffering.
It’s a smooth, if perfunctory, journey with the two characters that trades heavily on the pairing of two stars at opposite ends of their respective careers. Freeman always gives the impression that he doesn’t need to shift out of third gear to deliver his no-nonsense zingers, while his familiarity makes him easy to root for. Pugh, on the other hand, leaves everything on the screen, bringing to it her brand of adroit, Brando-esque naturalism that will win her an Academy Award at some juncture.
Beyond this, Braff’s screenplay offers little in the way of piercing observation. A somewhat clumsy attempt to imbue the film with a deeper wisdom than it truly achieves is made through the device of Daniel’s obsession with model villages. We are told, abruptly and with an absence of delicacy, that this hobby represents an unattainable desire for control over the frenzied fragments of his life, a grand total of three times. Either Braff doesn’t trust the insightfulness of his own screenplay, or the intelligence of his audience, or perhaps both.
There are, however, moments of compassionate contemplation that work fairly well, in which the broken pieces are laid out on the table for its characters to shrug at with tenderness and a trace of the kind of humour that creaks out in such moments of hopelessness. A Good Person works best when it resigns itself to its lack of intricacy, rather than straining for impact as it does in its misguided final act.
A Good Person is released nationwide on 24th March 2023.
Watch the trailer for A Good Person here: