Actor, producer, and director Zach Braff has a narrative eye for projects that portray genuine emotions. A focus on “connectivity” is a key component in his projects. Dating back to his 2004 masterpiece Garden State (which he also starred in), Braff dives into scenarios that relate well with his audience. Problems surrounding family dynamics are always a major factor in his projects including Garden State, Wish I Was Here (2014), and now in A Good Person. His current film explores a heavy tragedy impacting multiple parties and explores both connections and disconnections that lead to the film’s growing tensions.
A Good Person features Allison, played by Florence Pugh. Allison has a life that seems like it is headed in a successful direction. In the beginning, it seems like Allison has it all, but then her life is changed forever after a traumatic car accident. Allison survives the accident, but her passengers do not. As she wakes up, she can’t overcome an opioid addiction, and is plagued with grief. The extra hard part for Allison is that the people in the accident were related to her fiancé. In hard times, Allison’s mother Diane (played by Molly Shannon) tries to encourage her to get her act together by getting a job and being more productive. Allison, however, is too addicted to drugs and always uses pills to help overcome her pain.
As her grief takes over her mental capacity, some positive light is shed as she gets to know Daniel (played by Morgan Freeman). Daniel would have been her father-in-law. Daniel is also looking over his granddaughter, Ryan (played by Celeste O’Connor) because of her emotional state of mind. With Daniel’s old-school attitude, and laid-back, but firm sense of humor he tries to help both Allison and Ryan find ways in life to better themselves. His efforts are a touching representation of rebuilding oneself after losing what is special.
The fatal car accident is the doorway to resolution and forgiveness. The writing of A Good Person is strongly emotional and poetic. Braff himself wrote the film during Covid, so many of his frustrations came out in this screenplay. It is audacious and vivid in its portrayal of human feelings. The film’s emotions are so natural and demonstrate how filmmaking appreciates life. “Life” is what Daniel wants Allison and Ryan to “appreciate,” but both are allowing their emotions to take over their lives which Daniel will not let them do that. Although he has his own anger due to who died in the car accident, his heart is forgiving based on the evidence and the fact that it was a mistake. Daniel is able to be “forgiving” if there are efforts for change and resolution. The writing of A Good Person strikes a chord with the message of Allison and Ryan needing to be heard and found.
The dynamics of a full range of emotions caused my blood to boil during A Good Person. There is a car accident leading to a young woman’s depression, drug addiction, and disconnect. There is also a granddaughter who is lost and having temper issues due to grief. Both face challenging mental health problems and are impacted differently. The film illustrates how one incident drives the need for Allison to change, but also how the same incident causes a major change for Ryan. The impact of Allison’s accidental car crash on Ryan leaves lasting consequences.
The brilliance of A Good Person is monumental thanks to the dynamics being portrayed feeling so real. I love this movie for the message it tries to get across. Braff’s take on movies about life’s issues are wonderfully crafted and include unexpected sadness. His exploration of “Connection” is the saddest, but best part of A Good Person.
Love may be lost in A Good Person. Faith, however, looks for restoration in the film. There is no easy way to define the experience of A Good Person. Audiences will have to watch for themselves and see how it makes them feel. I believe that movies are about feelings and allowing people to connect issues in movies to real-life scenarios. A Good Person does a lot of that, but leaves viewers with a strong reminder that resolution is almost always possible. Three and a half stars for A Good Person.