While Braff continues to overrun his films with quirk, there’s a method to the writer’s tendencies. With the help of an outstanding performance by Florence Pugh, A Good Person explores how trauma can strengthen bonds and how empathy can initiate closure.
We review the 2023 film A Good Person, which does not contain spoilers.
Zach Braff spent the second half of his career acting in T-Mobile commercials and directing films obsessed with quirk and man-babies who don’t want to grow up. (Yes, that includes the older adult dramedy, Going in Style).
For instance, Wish I Was Here was an extension of his award-winning film, Garden State, with the same character in a different stage in their life. With this movie, A Good Person, he combines his trademark quirk that is toned down for a script that tackles the painful subject of addiction.
A Good Person (2023) Review and Plot Summary
Braff finds himself behind the camera again, and his script follows a woman named Allison (Florence Pugh), who is in the prime of her life. Her career is exceptional. Allison has a great support system and is about to marry her fiance, Nathan (Chinaza Uche): a kind, warm soul who compliments Allison in many ways and is deaf in one ear.
After spending the night with Nathan, she drives her future sister and brother-in-law, Molly and Jesse, into the city. While driving, Allison uses her phone to reroute them to the festivities.
A bulldozer backs into her lane. She wakes up in the hospital a few hours later. Her in-laws are dead, leaving their 14-year-old daughter Ryan (Selah and the Spades‘ Celeste O’Connor) to be looked after by her grandfather, Daniel (Morgan Freeman).
At that point, Braff’s script deals with Allison’s self-medicating as a way to escape the mental and physical pain of the accident. By chance, she walks into a group meeting to help support her attempt at sobriety, being attended by Daniel.
He struggles to stay sober while trying to raise Ryan independently. To say the least, it’s a complicated relationship that Braff makes much more welcoming than you usually would think.
Where the film struggles is in showing some chronic tension between characters. In particular, when Daniel confronts Allison. The film misses an opportunity even when Ryan confronts the woman behind her parent’s death.
They are both very forgiving, and their character acts like it’s their job to heal her somehow. With the script taking place four months or more after the incident, honestly, it’s hard to believe. Even the revelation of the tension between Nathan and Daniel comes across as faux since Freeman plays it as if it wasn’t a big deal and has already offered an apology.
Where the film excels is the performance by Pugh. There are times her performance is a revelation. The Oscar-nominated star has no trouble finding that deeply felt manic depression that comes with self-medicating with opioid addiction.
Her turn is always in the moment, even if Allison is constantly ruminating over the death, not just of her family, but the life that almost was. She is simply stunning here and elevates a film that needed something — or in this case, someone — great to get A Good Person where it needed to be.
Is the 2023 movie A Good Person good?
A Good Person is a slightly above-average character study on grief, with Pugh’s outstanding performance at its center. While the film uses its quirk as a tool to move the story along more than my liking, I see there is a method to Braff’s tendencies.
The script is not about directing blame. Braff wants to explore how trauma can strengthen bonds and how empathy encourages closure. And no matter what you do, there are just some broken connections that can never be fixed.
All you can do is move forward and help manage the pain the best you can.
What did you think of the 2023 film A Good Person? Comment below.
1 thought on “A Good Person Review – a stunning performance by Pugh”
Well-written review. I can’t wait to watch it soon!