Good One (2024)


Good One Review

India Donaldson’s first feature is a quiet and insightful exploration of how parents are grappling with their almost grown-ups when it comes to power dynamics.

Among teenagers, Sam aged 17, allows for the hormonal cacophony we should bear in mind is what most would describe as a good one: smart, considerate young person who remains practical yet in need of guidance. This kind of child is the type that parents brag about; while their friends quietly wish they had similar kids. However, this kind of reputation carries with it certain disadvantages as those older than her know that she shows much compliance and good humor and therefore expects too much allowances from them that they do not deserve. At this point women start losing faith in love and take it out on their daughters since they understand now that “happily ever after” does not exist for mothers who cannot even find common language with their own children. The new filmmaker India Donaldson has managed to capture this delicate role reversal in her debut film “Good One,” which centers on white lies and red flags during a father’s camping trip with his daughter.

“Good One” premiered at Sundance film festival 2014 in U.S Dramatic competition category, it lasted narrow 89 minutes, thus being an example of humble but clever indie cinema without any exorbitant claims made by its creators. Rather than making grand statements about nothing or trying to tell the viewer something you might see if you look more closely at low-key plot seeming uneventful, Good One wishes instead that audiences think more deeply about themselves or other individuals around them within the story line. However, the premise of Reichardt’s Old Joy (2006) seems to be echoed here accidentally as if played out after twenty years renewed with introduction of another participant being on the threshold of adulthood into formerly friendly relations between two middle-aged men who are taking rest together amidst woods. Furthermore, there’s something akin to the weightiness of Reichardt’s filmmaking in terms of its quiet subtext, where a few utterances and gestures start to carry their own meanings over hours, days, or even years.

But I’m getting ahead of the movie itself and the three tight days it takes place during an episode that encompasses long-standing relationships but is marked by pressures that have been brewing and affections which have been changing over time. Early fifties contractor Chris (James Le Gros) seems to be on great terms with Sam (Lily Collias), his only child and she takes his dad jokes even though some of them are quite offensive sometimes as well as his occasional clumsiness about prying into her private life with a sense of humor; he’s a loving parent who sincerely cares for her and seems not to mind her being gay at all. Sometimes there is a slight pique coming from divorce and Chris’ role in the whole thing, but for the most part, she has grown up now, like many others her age have done away with teenage grudges.

And then college. For Chris and Sam the Catskills camping trip they are planning may be just one among many others within their family lineage yet this particular one has an air of finality around it they know things will never be quite the same again going forward. Not alone: Matt (Danny McCarthy) one of Chris’ oldest friends will come along with them, besides this there is also another teenager son between them whose relationship with him is definitely tenser than that shared between Sam and Chris. At eleventh hour, however, Matt becomes unavailable leaving behind a scruffy guy who once was actor having no outdoorsmanship like his partner for daughter’s visitation.

To Sam, this is nothing she is just like that. However, there seems to be an unfairness in the way these two gruff old men talk with this silent young lady, virtually using her with them as a sounding board on their middle-aged grievances and self-pity while at the same time applauding her for responding so well and wisely, which sounds patronizing if not slightly insincere. Sam has license to tease them about their clumsy masculinity but only on their terms: When she becomes too frank for their liking, either they blank or admonish her.

At first it’s hard to notice how one-sided it is when the three of them are strolling over rocks and streams casually chatting along; you can only realize this after a whole day goes by before any meaningful question is asked about Sam’s life. However, when during one campfire banter between Sam and Matt took an uncomfortable turn that made Chris realize his irritation towards his friend was rising. The scale was unbalanced with her being outnumbered against two people who expected her to act more maturely than they do despite their age difference.” Donaldson’s sharp ear for dialogue lets the characters dance around each other without ever coming head-on as they would in a movie so easily but instead cursing each other out with passive aggressive maneuvers and sugar-coated comments.

First seen two years ago in a smaller role in “Palm Trees and Power Lines,” Collias shines here playing someone whose facial expressions do not change very much. It could be argued that Sam has always been calm but Collias’ tightly wound performance makes us understand its meaning; Wilson Cameron’s camera lingers on her face long enough in soft sunlit closeup until the twitching muscles behind the poise become apparent. A great Le Gros plays opposite coolly while also enjoying some eruptions of male bravado directed outwards whereas McCarthy provides a breezier slacker-like attitude that ultimately builds more tension than it releases.

These three opposing energies rub against each other and build toward a climax that might be too understated for some viewers an open-ended stalemate that seems to better fit the characters and their daily lives. It takes more than a single weekend for a “good one” to show the bigger complications they demand but Donaldson’s sly, observant first feature brings Sam closer to something not adulthood so much as a revised understanding of her youth, an epiphany that is louder than any yelling match.

Watch Good One For Free On Gomovies.

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