“A Good Person”: An Inside Look At Post Traumatic Substance Abuse And The Opioid Crisis In America


Elizabeth Ippolito

Directed By: Zach Braff

Starring: Florence Pugh, Morgan Freeman, and Molly Shannon

Rating: 4/5 

Trigger Warning: This article contains a discussion of substance abuse, traumatic events, depression, and anxiety.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction, SAMHSA National Helpline is available 24/7 free of charge at the number 1-800-662-4357.

“A Good Person” was released to theaters on March 24, 2023 and since then has made a huge impact on audiences. The story follows Allison, who is preparing for her wedding with her fiance, Nathan. After a freak car accident, leaving Nathen’s sister and brother-in-law dead, Allison must live with the guilt of being the driver of the car. Allison suffers injuries herself and for that, she is prescribed Oxycodone, a pain killer that is classified as the second most addictive drug a patient can be prescribed by a doctor. Allison then struggles with addiction and accepting her past. 

Allison is played by Florence Pugh who did a phenomenal job in the role. From the start, audiences are hooked on her charismatic character and feel for her through her ups and downs throughout the film. Pugh brings light to a hushed epidemic within America. Within her performance, she shows the opioid epidemic shows the harsh realities of addiction. 

Pugh comments on portraying Allison in an interview with W Magazine, It was important to study that world, a world I haven’t come close to, and understand what people with addiction go through, the pain that she’s in. Someone that would’ve taken that drug for as long as she did, your body actually changes to needing it.” 

She also does a realistic and subtle portrayal of someone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD. Her counterpart, Morgan Freeman, who plays Allison’s fiance’s father, commands the screen and takes a rough around the edges character that audiences love. The raw emotion portrayed by Florence Pugh and Freeman was unlike any film I had seen before. Their roles being incredibly delicate yet difficult they knocked their performance out of the park. The emotions of all the characters alike showed grief in a new aspect. The characters all had a lack of control making all of their performances free and unhinged, giving audiences the most realistic experience possible.  

Though the story will bring audiences on a roller coaster of emotions, it was a story unlike one film fanatics have seen in a very long time. When freak accidents like this occur it is easy to blame the cause. But, many people think of the victims of these accidents rather than those who inadvertently cause them. The title of the film really hones in on this concept. The film aims to portray Allison as a subjectively good person but an out-of-control accident causes people to see her as a villain and leads to her downward spiral with opiates. 

The cinematography of the film was beautiful as well, with its dark coloring, closeups, and moving shots the fans were able to feel everything Allison felt. One thing the film did extremely well was simulating the effects of drugs while Allison was experiencing them. The blurring and stop motion aspect of some scenes let fans experience the daze that Allison was going through. This paired with the sound design made the film more experiential. The deafening white noise at times, really got audiences locked in on what Allison felt.

America’s silent killer is opioid abuse. In 2021, there were 106,000 deaths from opioid-induced overdoses alone. Opioids are the general term for a prescription painkiller, traditionally prescribed by a doctor after surgeries or after accidents to numb the pain of those affected. These pills however are extremely addictive, especially if taken long-term. The bodies of those who take these pills for six months bodies begin to develop a dependence on them, resulting in a chemical shift throughout the brain causing addiction symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, vomiting, tremors, and chills to name a few. Drug withdrawal is very complex in the sense that detoxing the body of these addicting drugs can be detrimental to the body. Some signs to look for in friends and loved ones who may be struggling with addiction are lost interest in activities, mood swings, erratic schedule, overly energetic, and lack of self-care to name a few. 

Aside from addiction, Allison suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with co-occurring substance use disorders. These two disorders usually go hand in hand especially when those affected are injured in traumatic accidents. These disorders involve increased chronic physical health problems, abusing drugs for medical purposes rather than recreational use, and, easier access to opioids. This results in intrusive recollection, avoidance of daily tasks, substance dependence, using for longer than planned, unsuccessful control of use, and continual use despite knowing the danger of the cause. All of these symptoms were portrayed on screen by Florence Pugh which gave audiences the best possible inside look at PTSD and co-occurring substance use disorder.

“A Good Person” is the underground film this season, with little marketing promoting the film, but an insanely talented cast. This is the film you need to make a point to see. With a killer storyline, “A Good Person” discusses issues that Hollywood has kept quiet for far too long.