While sometimes the cursing feels like an unnecessary crutch to heighten the drama, “A Good Person” will pull on your heartstrings and make it clear why Florence Pugh is considered a top talent.
|Screenplay By||Zach Braff|
|Date Released (In Theaters)||March 24, 2023|
|Genre(s)||Drama, Young Adult|
|Duration||2 Hours and 9 Minutes|
|Content Rating||Rated R|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
At one time, Nathan and Allison had the perfect relationship. They were high school sweethearts, engaged, and his family loved her. Also, we can assume her mom loved Nathan; it was all bliss. But one car accident changed everything. It took away Nathan’s sister and left his niece, Ryan, without a mom and dad. Also, it forced Nathan’s father, Daniel, to be an active father again, which he didn’t do so well the first time.
To add onto that, Allison completely spiraled thanks to guilt, and it’s so bad that she is an addict mainly because she isn’t capable of suicide. But, as she starts to see rock bottom, she seeks help at a AA meeting at a local church, and damn if Daniel isn’t there. But, despite him blaming Allison for all of his misfortune, he tries to do right by what would have been his daughter-in-law and thus begins Allison’s journey to try to heal.
Things To Note
Why Is “A Good Person” Rated R
- Dialog: So much cursing
- Violence: There is minor fighting between Allison and her mother, and Daniel threatens someone with a gun
- Sexual Content: There isn’t the actual act, but it is alluded to, and in one case, there might be an assault
- Miscellaneous: Drinking, drug use, attempted suicide, and depiction of bullying
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
With a charming smile and athleticism, Nathan had the world in his hands and a wonderful woman by his side. But, after the tragic death of his sister and brother-in-law, he found himself isolated. Not voluntarily, in all aspects, but with Allison leaving him and a strained relationship with his father, Nathan mourned and reflected on his own.
Allison is 26 and spiraling. She has a heavy guilt for being the driver of the car that killed two people in an accident, and while she had a good job at Purdue hawking drugs, and making a bonus for it, eventually, she stopped. She allowed her life to fall apart and picked up an addiction to her company’s biggest product: Oxy. But, after a year of mourning and only physically healing, she hits rock bottom, leading to her focusing on emotionally and mentally healing.
Originally from Long Beach Island, New Jersey, after the death of her parents, she finds herself living with her grandpa Daniel in South Orange, New Jersey, and it is a struggle. Daniel, who is used to parenting through fear, isn’t able to handle this new generation who isn’t scared of adults. She calls him by his first name and curses at and around him, and while he tries and wants to give her grace, the more she rebels, the less he is sure that he can continue raising her by himself.
An alcoholic and former Newark Police Officer, Daniel is a widow who thought he would travel and do all the things he couldn’t do while working. However, not only to raise Ryan, but other things have held him back. But, perhaps the biggest thing on his mind at times isn’t Ryan and her needs, but the relationship, or lack thereof, he has with Nathan. Thanks to Daniel getting blackout drunk when Nathan and his sister were growing up, they are estranged when Daniel needs him the most.
Diane is Allison’s mom, who raised her mainly as a single parent, who drinks to get through life, but she is a functioning alcoholic.
Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)
While Zac Braff has released films since “Garden State,” I do feel that “A Good Person” is the closest he has gotten to capturing that indie music vibe that made “Garden State” as good as it is. Now, this isn’t to say you’ll want to buy the soundtrack or start hounding for artist on Spotify. But, you may end up staying for the credits just to get a sense of who sang what and, in terms of Ms. Florence Pugh, learning the names of her written and performed songs.
Navigating The Grief And Trauma
Though there are moments of levity, especially since Pugh knows how to execute an awkward but funny moment (see any Yelena Belova compilation for examples), “A Good person” is heavy. Loss is at the center of everything. Note: Nathan’s feelings of loss are largely omitted, but you can’t discount what isn’t said about him losing his sister, or even Allison, isn’t compensated by exploring his relationship with Daniel.
The relationship between Nathan and Daniel has complexities to it. Daniel, like many of us, made a claim when he was younger that he would never be like his parents and ended up committing acts adjacent to what he grew up with. And you can see through the loss of his daughter and being unable to reconcile with his son due to acts committed decades ago, Ryan and even Allison, to a point, become his lifeline. They are the two people who, on his journey, could lead to redemption for all he did while under the influence of alcohol. Ryan is the second chance to be a good paternal role, and Allison? Through trying to forgive her, he hopes to prove to himself, maybe even Nathan, he has changed and is worthy of forgiveness.
Last, for this section, but not least is Ryan. Watching a young girl deal with moving halfway across her state, losing her parents, and, as collateral damage, being abandoned by her uncle? It’s tough. It makes every outburst, whether justifiable or not, something you want to give her grace for. She is surrounded by people is in a secure home, yet still appears to feel isolated, alone, and all while dealing with intense emotions her grandpa can’t deal with. This includes her desiring intimacy, since she is a teenager, and having no one to talk to about it and no opportunities to explore these thoughts and feelings locally, thus coercing her online.
Just in Nathan, Ryan, and Daniel’s family alone, “A Good Person” gives the kind of complexity and recognition that highlights a grieving family and touches on what a Black family in mourning can be like. Especially when there is a patriarch like Daniel as its head.
Wherever you go, it is made clear this role was written for Florence Pugh by her former partner, the writer/ director Zach Braff. You can see the clear benefit in many ways, for it doesn’t seem like she has to push herself too hard. But, one thing I want to focus on is the effort made into you wanting to forgive Allison.
At times, it can feel like focusing on Allison’s grief, considering a kid lost their parents, a man lost his daughter, and a brother lost his sister, seems wrong, or at the very least off. Add in being pushed to feel sorry for her since her grief has made her an addict, and in the wrong hands, it can feel like the film wanted to downplay what a grieving family was going through so you can feel sorry for the White girl who, partially, is to blame for the accident.
However, Braff tries to walk a delicate balance so that, as much as what was said above is true, in the moment, you can see Allison as someone who experienced a valid loss too. Nathan’s sister was to be Allison’s sister-in-law, and they were friends. Also, with Daniel vehemently blaming Allison and making it clear to Ryan that Allison is to blame, even if Nathan wanted to work things out, how could that work? His father and niece despising her while she is alive, some semblance of happiness, and maybe getting to start a family while looking at the one she destroyed?
You are forced into a level of complex emotions that may not feel expected, and it makes how “A Good Person” ends as a potential tear-jerker.
On The Fence
The Cursing Feels Like A Unnecessary Crutch
The amount of F-bombs and other expletives often feel unnecessary. It is understood that Daniel and Ryan are dealing with a major change in their lives, and it is hard. To a point, you can even understand, culturally, he is an old, curmudgeon man from a generation where you raised your child by having them fear you and her not giving in, but throwing it all back at him, calls for a cathartic release. But, after a certain point, the cursing feels gratuitous.
I would compare it to a horror movie that relies on gore and jump scares over providing a tense, fear-inducing story. “A Good Person” seems to want to compensate for something it lacks, even though the performances and writing are already there and good enough to not need an extra boost.
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