Film Review: A Good Person – 7.5/10

‘I will forever grieve the life that we could have had…’

The directorial career of Zach Braff is a strange tale. Garden State, Braff’s debut feature, received huge acclaim upon release but it has been weirdly reevaluated in the years since and from that film on it’s felt like the knives are out with each new Zach Braff picture. His latest A Good Person is no exception. Despite very respectable audience scores, critics have once again savaged Braff’s latest. I find this to be utterly baffling. It seems many film critics don’t know how to handle a film that wears its heart on its sleeve. Braff is a sentimental and passionate director but never in a way that is manipulative. It seems that unless emotion is buried in symbolism and subtext, it isn’t a valid form of self-expression. Well, I loved Garden State, I loved Wish I Was Here and I’m here to say that A Good Person is a great film also…

Following a terrible car crash that kills her sister and brother-in-law, Allison (Florence Pugh) splits from her fiance (Chinaza Uche) and develops an addiction to painkillers. The situation is complicated further when Ally forges an unlikely relationship with her former father-in-law and fellow addict Daniel (Morgan Freeman) and his granddaughter Ryan (Celeste O’Connor).

It’s already well established that Pugh plays an excellent sad girl and she captures the quiet desperation of an addict wonderfully here. I really cared about this character by the end. Over two-plus hours, Braff weaves a tangled web of complex and nuanced relationships and it is genuinely exhilarating to see two performers as talented as Pugh and Freeman facing off but really the whole cast responds to the material in a committed way, particularly Molly Shannon whose needy and troubled matriarch provides some of the film’s best moments. Being a Braff picture, obviously, we have the indie soundtrack and the mournful shots of people looking sad, but under the surface there is a beating heart inside this thing.

As with any of Braff’s work, your response to it will depend on whether you can find a connection to the characters. Allison might be his most human creation to date. A triumph.