A Good Person

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

A Good Person
dir-scr Zach Braff
prd Zach Braff, Pamela Koffler, Florence Pugh, Christine Vachon
with Florence Pugh, Morgan Freeman, Molly Shannon, Celeste O'Connor, Chinaza Uche, Zoe Lister-Jones, Nichelle Hines, Toby Onwumere, Ignacio Diaz-Silverio, Oli Green, Alex Wolff, Brian Rojas
release US/UK 24.Mar.23
23/US Sky 2h03

shannon oconnor braff

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pugh and freeman
Opening with some wonderfully offhanded scene-setting, this drama immediately strikes a realistic tone mixing earthy humour with heartfelt emotion. Writer-director Zach Braff maintains a lightness even as this becomes a perhaps too-heavy film about a group of wounded people who are trying to get their lives moving in a positive direction after a tragedy. The question is how to embrace the tough things life throws at you.
A year after being involved in a fatal car crash, Allison (Pugh) is unemployed, split from her fiance (Uche), living with her mother (Shannon) and struggling to wean herself from her pain meds. Meanwhile, retired cop Daniel (Freeman) is battling with his angry 16-year-old granddaughter Ryan (O'Connor), whose mother died in the accident. At an addiction meeting, Allison runs into Daniel. And as she begins working on herself, Allison makes an unexpected connection with both Daniel and Ryan. While this offers hope, it also opens some much deeper wounds that haven't yet begun to heal.
Tightly interconnected, each character in this story has complex emotions and challenges, including family issues that span generations. The script is extremely pointed, and the long running time sometimes seems overpowering. But there are hugely resonant elements peppered throughout, starting with how Allison worries that she doesn't have the will to pull herself out of her problems. And perhaps that's the film's central idea, that while each of us needs to find our inner strength, we also need as much help as we can get.

Pugh has an almost unnerving ability to put varied layers of honesty on-screen at the same time. She also gets to demonstrate her serious musical gifts here. Allison is smart, with a jagged sense of humour that battles with a deep sense of self-loathing. Pugh's performance shows that Allison understands all of this, even she is pushed deeper into her pain. Freeman and O'Connor are excellent as well, pushing and pulling Allison as Daniel and Ryan struggle to make peace with themselves.

Packed with momentous issues, this film takes on grief, addiction, guilt, anger, loneliness, fractured relationships, past abuse and much more. The extended structure offers several seriously intense sequences along the way, grappling with these topics without ever being glib about them. And the question is where any of these people will find the strength to forgive themselves and each other rather. Each of them is hurting so badly that they only make things worse. And the film's approach to these provocative themes is refreshingly delicate.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 21.Mar.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall