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Review: A Good Person

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Florence Pugh and Molly Quinn in

In the wake of John Wick: Chapter 4, is anybody ready for a kinder, gentler sort of movie? Oh. OK. Well, there are two such unanticipated films upon us anyway. One is an unabashedly teary family drama about grief and drug addiction; the other concerns the near-50-year struggle to legalize pinball machines in New York City. (The latter, Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game, was written and directed by Meredith and Austin Bragg, who both work for Reason.) In neither of these pictures—each of which has substantial merits—does anyone get shot in the face. So be forewarned.

The first movie announces its emotional atmosphere in its title: A Good Person. It was written and directed by Zach Braff—still fondly remembered for his 2004 hit Garden State (in which he also starred, with Natalie Portman). Here, remaining behind the camera, he directs the great Florence Pugh (his girlfriend at the time of filming) in a story about a young woman named Allison, who was badly injured in a car crash that killed her fiancé’s sister and the sister’s husband, and soon went spiraling into the blurry world of OxyContin addiction.

Allison is surrounded by characters who are uniformly good-hearted people (this is not a movie with much in the way of heated conflict). There’s her loving but now-estranged fiancé, Nathan (Chinaza Uche); Nathan’s father Daniel (Morgan Freeman at his most avuncular); the dead sister’s daughter, Ryan (a peppery Celeste O’Connor); and another recovering addict (Zoe Lister-Jones) who befriends Allison in an Alcoholics Anonymous rehab program. The tensest part of the story crops up when Allison runs into two old high-school acquaintances—both drug-biz lowlifes—in a day-drinker bar. But that passes (after she succumbs to one last score).

The best reason to see this movie is to watch Pugh cycle seamlessly through a procession of emotions ranging from heartbreak and self-loathing (“I hate you so much,” she says into a bathroom mirror) to tentative, slow-dawning hopefulness. There’s no other actor quite like her working in movies at the moment. And Morgan Freeman is almost always stellar—although here his character is given an elaborate HO train set down in his basement, where he stages scenes from earlier in his life and maintains, as he puts it, “a secret world of order and symmetry.” A little lugubrious. But hey, it’s still Morgan Freeman.

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