The Good Deeds in ‘A Good Person’

There is no happy ending to the OxyContin epidemic. This drug has played a significant role in the broader opioid crisis, which claimed the lives of 645,000 Americans between 1999 and 2021. Although a nearly $6 billion settlement has been reached, aiming to offer assistance for drug addiction through counseling and therapy, as well as providing payouts to families who have lost loved ones to the painkiller, it only comes in the aftermath of a national affliction that has been wreaking havoc on the lives of individuals and communities for many years.

Meanwhile, the Sackler family, whose company Purdue Pharmaceuticals developed the drug and falsely marketed it as non-addictive, has been granted immunity from any future civil suits as part of this deal. With no criminal charges filed against them and still retaining billions of dollars in wealth, the Sacklers, according to the agreement, depart from the company they founded, which will be renamed Knoa Pharma. However, their family name and legacy are now synonymous with corporate greed and a callous disregard for human welfare on a very large scale.


A Good Person is one of several film and TV projects in recent years that depict the story of OxyContin and the broader issue of narcotics in the country. TV series such as Dopesick, Painkiller, and The Fall of the House of Usher serve as cautionary tales, focusing on drug pushers like the Sacklers, and the victims of their lies and misdeeds. However, A Good Person takes a different approach, placing less emphasis on the controversy of OxyContin and more on the addict – the individual who receives the pill from her trusted doctor. The film portrays a young woman with corrosive drug-seeking behavior and explores the impact on those closest to her.

Meet Allison (played by Florence Pugh), a young aspiring musician who is happily engaged to her boyfriend Nathan (played by Chinaza Uche) at the beginning of the film. The couple is interracial, and the opening party scene depicts their friends of different races celebrating the couple’s bond in a convincingly harmonious fashion. Everything appears to be going well for Allison until she is involved in a car accident that alters the entire trajectory of her life.

Allison (Florence Pugh)

A year has passed, and we discover that Allison has ended her relationship with Nathan. What initially began as a treatment for injuries sustained during the crash has transformed into an unhealthy dependence on OxyContin. With the physical pain alleviated, she now uses the drug to numb the problems in her life and to dull the immense guilt stemming from the incident, which (SPOILER) tragically claimed the lives of her sister-in-law and her in-law’s respective husband.

Morgan Freeman portrays Daniel, Nathan’s father. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Daniel is compelled to care for his sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Ryan (Celeste O’Connor). Daniel grapples with his own issues, particularly alcoholism, a battle he has been navigating for numerous years. Additionally, he contends with a strained relationship with his son, stemming from (SPOILER) physically abusing him in his younger years—a transgression Nathan has not forgiven him for.

In turn, Daniel has trouble forgiving Allison for the accident. But after a chance encounter with her at an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting, he has a change of heart. He feels it his responsibility to help her recover from her addictions and get her life back on track. Things go off the rails, however, when Allison meets young Ryan.  

A Good Person explores the theme of forgiveness and the motivations behind that sentiment. Daniel exemplifies someone who views forgiveness as an external task to be completed, rather than as a natural emotion that should arise from within. The film strongly conveys the message that forgiveness is a challenging process—Nathan grapples with forgiving his father, Ryan faces difficulties in forgiving Allison, and Allison struggles with self-forgiveness.

Daniel (Morgan Freeman) and Allison (Florence Pugh)

Penned and directed by Zach Braff, A Good Person marked a significant departure for the actor and filmmaker. While Garden State delved into somewhat somber themes, it exuded charm and humor that rendered it dynamic and enjoyable. The film concluded with a happy, albeit somewhat cliché, ending where the guy gets the girl, and it felt earned.

Here, we’re dealing with grief. Storylines are not wrapped up in a bow, and many things are left unresolved. Some characters regress and remain unhappy, even becoming spiteful. The movie’s title refers to a speech by Daniel late in the film where he laments that despite being a ‘good person,’ he is still plagued with misfortune and tragedy.  

The acting is superb, with particular praise for Morgan Freeman, who, at 86, delivers an incredible performance, displaying minimal signs of decline and remaining as sharp as ever. Florence Pugh also delivers a commendable performance. However, Molly Shannon, in the role of Penny’s mother Diane, is underused. Notably, Celeste O’Connor as Ryan steals the spotlight in many of the scenes she appears in.

Daniel (Morgan Freeman) and Nathan (Chinaza Uche)

In a recent interview promoting the film, Braff discussed losing some friends in the last few years, including at least one instance due to COVID. This personal experience significantly influenced the movie. The story unfolds with realism and a distinct truth. This can also make A Good Person rather depressing and even somewhat unpleasant for some viewers.

Watching content centered on the OxyContin controversy and its impact on the average American has taught me that sometimes it’s more effective to depict the decline of a character. This sheds light on the ongoing issue prevalent in this country. Many individuals attempted to recover, but unfortunately, a significant number did not succeed. This is an undeniable fact.

A Good Person delivers an important message.  It’s just a little bit of a drag.