a good person

A Good Person review | Florence Pugh redeems Zach Braff’s lazy sophomore film

★★☆☆☆ Florence Pugh plays Allison, a woman who finds herself struggling with opioid addiction. Read our review of A Good Person. 


Florence Pugh plays Allison, a woman recovering from a life-changing car accident who finds herself struggling with opioid addiction. Read our review of A Good Person

Zach Braff’s fourth feature film as a director seems to combine the most interesting parts of his previous films. Much like his directorial debut Garden State, A Good Person looks at medication with a slightly suspicious mindset. And like his amusing third film, Going In Style, A Good Person also stars the incomparable Morgan Freeman. 

Florence Pugh plays Allison, who is on her way to try on her wedding dresses with her future sister-in-law and her husband in the car when they crash. Allison is the sole survivor, but her life is forever changed, not only because she becomes addicted to opioids, the only thing that takes away her pain, both the physical and metaphorical. 

The film mostly focuses on Allison’s journey to be free of addiction. She forms an unlikely, close bond with her would-be father-in-law Daniel (Morgan Freeman), but things become complicated when Daniel’s granddaughter Ryan (Celeste O’Connor) begins to bond with Allison. 

a good person florence pugh

Credit: Sky

Remove the performances from A Good Person and it becomes a remarkably unremarkable film. Braff’s writing is both unexciting and unsurprising; there’s nothing here about addiction we don’t already know. A Good Person features familiar and full scenes of characters screaming and crying after their stash in being dumped down a toilet and going down risky routes to get just one more hit. Braff struggles to tell this particular story in a compelling way, constantly resorting to cliches, effectively short-selling the warm and complex relationship between Allison and Daniel at the heart of his film. 

In many ways, A Good Person seems like the TV movie version of Beautiful Boy, starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet. Both films are designed to force empathy out of you, but Braff’s script rarely extends that same empathy to the characters themselves. Like Beautiful Boy, A Good Person comes across as a highly manipulative film that lacks the craft to bring the story alive. 

Thankfully, Florence Pugh is extraordinary as Allison. It’s an electrifying performance, one that doesn’t resonate because of the overall quality of the film around her, but despite it. Pugh never resorts to making Allison just a victim of her circumstances; she’s always her own worst enemy. Pugh isn’t scared by the thornier side of her character and is willing to go to great lengths to show us the ugliness of Allison as she tries to blackmail an old colleague for some pills or as she makes the same mistakes, over and over again. 

Freeman gives admirable support, but is mostly overshadowed by the women around him. Celeste O’Connor is a standout against Pugh. Ryan is hot-tempered and impatient, often rash to judge people but O’Connor’s performance roots all this to the trauma of losing her parents. Another standout is Molly Shannon as Allison’s mother. While her role is thinly written, Shannon imbues it with gravitas and an early scene in which Allison and her mother scream at each other is a particularly compelling one. 

a good person morgan freeman

Credit: Sky

Braff’s direction is, at best, uneven. The film occasionally stumbles on something genuinely moving or insightful, but most of this is thanks to Pugh’s endlessly fascinating performance. Her choices within any given scene are always surprising and even when the film around her becomes tepid, her contributions to it feel fresh and different. 

At times, Braff attempts to make A Good Person into a quirky indie with some weird camera angles and cute shots of Pugh riding a bike, but such an approach feels strange in a film with such a heavy topic. Braff doesn’t seem to know how to handle the weight of the story or how to inject anything remotely entertaining into it. 

A Good Person doesn’t manage to find anything new to say about its themes and Braff’s refusal to break free of obvious cliches brings the whole film down. A Good Person is without a doubt elevated by Pugh’s performance, but that can only save so much. 

A Good Person is in cinemas 24 March and will stream on Sky Cinema 28 April. 

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