Zach Braff’s “A Good Person” is flawed in many ways, but its saving grace is the characters that keep your eyes on the screen even if you’re wondering by the end what the point of it all was. “A Good Person” had great intentions but seemed more like a half-baked story than a two-hour movie. But, with actors like Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman, there is no denying that it is a movie worth watching for their performances alone. Seeing them together is a delight, and sometimes heartfelt, sometimes angry, “A Good Person” is a roller coaster of emotions. Let’s break down some of the important characters and their arcs in the film.
Allison: From Miss Congeniality To Miss Nobody
The protagonist of “A Good Person” is Allison, played by the woman of the hour, Florence Pugh. Unfortunately, Florence has not much to go on because it looks like, after the main event of the film, i.e., the accident, her personality becomes the accident. Yes, a grief-stricken person can be lost and consumed by the events that put them in that position, but to find their closure, they must slowly return to their true selves. In “A Good Person,” Allison goes from being the perfect woman with the perfect job and fiancé to being addicted to drugs, then back to a new version of a perfect life. Not to say that this is unrealistic; it is just that there are a lot of jumps that may not have been necessary to understand Allison’s journey through the film. In the beginning, Allison is chirpy, entertaining, and has an extroverted personality.
After the accident, all Allie does is deny the fact that it was her fault. Maybe she doesn’t remember, or subconsciously, it is her way of dealing with the loss of these two important people who are gone because of her. Allison, herself leaves Nathan, her fiancé who continues to support her after the accident because she can’t deal with the guilt of it all. She thinks she’s doing Nathan a favor by leaving him, but it’s actually a selfish choice. When she’s faced with two ex-classmates, she’s so desperate for drugs that she is forced to call herself a junkie in order to get her hands on some pills. When Allison comes across Daniel in the NA meeting, she is consumed by guilt yet again. She decides to leave but is convinced by Daniel to stay because, as we find out later, that is their fate together. Allison’s closure comes when Daniel finally blames Allison for killing his daughter. She was always stuck not knowing how he truly felt, but with a little bit of alcohol, he was able to become entirely honest with her in an unhinged manner.
Daniel: Soft Old Man
Daniel’s character does fall into the adorable old man who is argumentative, but we do love him anyway trope, but he is rather understanding compared to others who embody this archetype. We learn early on in the film that Nathan isn’t interested in keeping in touch with his father. When we see Daniel interact with his granddaughter Ryan, we don’t really understand why Nathan would do that. It’s not like Nathan is a pathetic young man who has no time for his old father. We learn later that it is because Nathan has always been afraid of his father. He lost his hearing in one ear because of Daniel and his alcohol-fueled rage.
Just like Allison, Daniel, too, is dealing with addiction, and grief. He is also dealing with a rebellious granddaughter, who is, on one side, a distraction from everything he has been through and, on the other, a reminder of what has been taken away from him. Daniel also regrets having treated his children badly, as we see him speak about his past mistakes at the NA meetings. Daniel is meticulous, as we know; he is a military man who went to war in Vietnam and has all the reports on the accident memorized in his head. Still, he doesn’t immediately get mad at Allison. Instead, he offers her a hand of support because he can understand how difficult it must’ve been to bring herself to the NA meeting. While Allison and Daniel have both done some shady things, we are made to understand their circumstances. Not to say beating up your child enough to make him lose his hearing is okay, but it’s something Daniel is working hard to be forgiven for.
Both Allison and Daniel are flawed, and they understand each other because they are alone together. Daniel can’t get through to his granddaughter, and Allison’s mother is in her own world. When they see each other’s flaws, they accept their own mistakes. Ryan is the link between all the characters of this film; although she is too old to be in a parent-trap-like situation, her corny ideas do bring Nathan and Allison back into each other’s lives.
Ryan: All For Good
Ryan is Nathan’s niece and Daniel’s granddaughter. After her parents died in the road accident, Ryan has to live with her grandfather. As a teenager who is already lost and confused, she’s unable to talk to her grandfather and starts to do regrettable things like meeting an older guy online (she’s only 16) or quitting the soccer team. Her behavior makes Daniel rethink his alcoholic ways because now he has nobody to support him and raise this girl. Ryan clearly has a good heart, and all she wants to do is live out her mom’s dreams by seeing Nathan and Allison back together. Ryan’s intentions are always good, but she fails to understand how she might be hurting Allison or Daniel, for that matter, probably because of her lack of experience.
Allison’s mother, Diane, is a wonderful person who is supportive of Allison, but she’s also oblivious to Allison’s feelings at times. It’s her good nature that makes her so, but to her, she just wants her fun and smart old self back. She’s sure that the accident was not Allison’s fault and is convinced now that she’s not in any physical pain, she needs to move forward. Nathan, on the other hand, is Allison’s pillar, even when he should have been grieving as he was the one who lost his sister. In truth, is Nathan the real “good person,” as mentioned in the title of the film? He isn’t really in the movie much, but he’s loyal, heartbroken, protective, supportive, and even forgiving.
All the characters in the film are on a similar journey, one that expects them to move forward. Moving forward from the sadness, the addiction, the loneliness, and the guilt