A Good Person review: Florence Pugh tackles guilt and grief

Florence Pugh as Allison in A Good Person.
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Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman give powerful performances in Zach Braff’s A Good Person – here’s our review.

In Zach Braff’s A Good Person, Florence Pugh holds her own against acting legend Morgan Freeman as she plays Allison, a woman struggling with the consequences of a fatal car crash – a crash that happened while she was driving the car, and which killed two people, leaving her the sole survivor. 

The film begins with an unusual monologue from Morgan Freeman about model train sets, playing God, and how real life is not nearly as perfect as the stories you can devise with the toys you have control over. It’s a monologue that makes sense later in the film, when we learn more about his character, Daniel – the father of one of the crash’s victims, carer for his granddaughter Ryan (a defiant Celeste O’Connor) and Allison’s would-be father-in-law. 

While in the short term it seems fairly cryptic, it’s a well known fact that everyone loves Freeman’s voice, so it’s not a bad way to start. 

Cut to a busy engagement party where Pugh gets to show off her singing skills. It makes for a very charismatic introduction to Allison, as well as establishing the seemingly-perfect life she and her fiance Nathan (Chinaza Uche) had before the crash. We get to see that crash happen, too, and the exact circumstances of it, as well as Allison’s reaction in the aftermath, is what sets her on the path to being a protagonist who’s hard to sympathise with too much. 

A year later, Allison, Daniel and Ryan are struggling to come to terms with their grief. Allison is struggling with addiction and Daniel has no idea how to raise a troubled teenager, as Ryan gets in trouble at school and is generally rebellious. When Allison and Daniel’s paths cross entirely by chance, they form an unexpected relationship that may just help all three of them to deal with their shared past. 

When we catch up with Allison a year after the accident, she’s sitting around in her pyjamas with the curtains closed, trying to cut her own hair from a YouTube tutorial. It’s basically every cliche of a woman in crisis thrown into one scene, and this is one of the script’s bigger problems. With both Allison and Ryan, it jumps to the stereotypical worst case scenario of dealing with grief, and it comes across as quite melodramatic and inauthentic in places. 

It’s to Pugh’s credit that she takes the reductive script that she’s given and churns out yet another powerhouse performance that makes Allison believable. She even holds her own in scenes opposite Freeman, which is something extremely notable for an actor who’s still early in her (impressive) career.

Chinaza Uche and Morgan Freeman in A Good Person.

That doesn’t make her character any less grating, though. Yes, Allison is struggling with addiction, and that’s something that affects everything about a person, but it’s clear early on that her grief is for the future she’s lost, not the suffering that’s been inflicted on the people around her. Throughout the film she refuses to take any kind of accountability, and soon becomes quite insufferable.  

However, these melodramatic scenarios allow for some particularly comedic moments. Morgan Freeman, who worked with Braff previously on his 2017 heist comedy Going In Style, gets to shine as an ex-policeman trying to rein in his granddaughter’s rebellious tendencies. Arguably the best part of the film is him chasing a half-naked boy out of her bedroom. Said boy is (justifiably) soaked with a hose by Daniel’s neighbour – a memorable cameo from Jackie Hoffman, who appears to take great joy in shouting “fuckboy!” numerous times at her deserving victim. 

These moments of comedy are few, though, and it’s up to Freeman and Pugh to really sell this movie. They succeed, making a genuine connection between Allison and Daniel believable even though the odds are against them. A Good Person is one of those films where an often-lacking script is really elevated by the talent performing it, and it’s thanks to the three leads that this is mostly an engaging watch. 

Regrettably, it begins to come unstuck as it approaches the end. What starts off as a third act that’s just a bit too low key soon flips into one that seems overly melodramatic. After that’s done with, we get a disappointing epilogue that rounds off Allison’s story in a rather unsatisfactory way, and makes you question the point of the events that preceded it. 

That statement may sound slightly off-putting; no one likes watching a deeply unsatisfying film. But putting aside Braff’s screenplay, this really is a showcase for two incredible performers to do some incredible work. A Good Person is worth seeking out for Pugh and Freeman alone.  

A Good Person is in cinemas on 24th March and released on Sky Cinema on 28th April.

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