Sundance Review: ‘Good One’

Newcomer Lily Collias Braves The Woods And Complicated Paternal Relationships In India Donaldson's Directorial Debut

Good One, India Donaldson’s first feature, starts with various shots of the Catskills– lush green woods, bright orange salamanders scurrying across mossy rocks, picturesque ponds and rivers. This sequence not only gives us a sneak peek of where we will be spending the next 90 minutes but it also provides a peaceful juxtaposition to the emotional turmoil ahead. 

Donaldson then transports us to New York City, where she introduces us to Sam (Lily Collias). She’s a 17-year-old child of divorce bound for college in the fall and currently getting ready for a father/daughter camping trip with her dad, Chris (James Le Gros), who has since remarried in his 50s and has a toddler. Early on, we see his controlling nature poke through as he repacks the food jar for their overnight hike. 

His oldest friend, Matt (Danny McCarthy), and his son are supposed to join them, but that is quickly redrailed during pick-up when a father/son argument breaks out and the group leaves as three instead of four. 

The trip is filled with microaggressions from Chris directed towards his daughter. He makes her move to the back seat to make way for Matt. Sam is forced to sleep on the ground of their hostel. She is constantly talked over by both the adult men with her and a trio of male hikers who join them for one night. Sam keeps her head down and obliges them, despite Matt’s immature behavior. He leaves his sleeping bag in the car and carelessly hikes in jeans, yet she is treated as the immature one. 

Lily Collias is quietly brilliant. You can see the defeated look on her face every time Donaldson gives her a reaction shot. Her inner turmoil and anger brew with each encounter of toxic masculinity. Her performance reminds me of Sidney Flanigan from Never Rarely Sometimes Always, both devastating and triumphant. As a whole, Good One feels like the parental version of Gus Van Zant’s Gerry with less physical violence

Just as Sam is accepting her treatment and starting to enjoy herself, the shoe you’ve been anticipating drops. If you are a fan of HBO’s Somebody Somewhere, you’re already aware of what a douche canoe Danny McCarthy can play. Here he expertly plays both a sad sap and a manipulative asshole, losing your sympathies just as he’s gained them. 

If you find your way onto millennial and Gen Z therapy TikTok, you’ll notice that the topic of parenting your parent comes up often. It comes in many forms, the common one being emotionally regulating yourself from a young age while helping your parent do the same. 

Good One is a prime example of how this concept is manifested in women from a young age. Sam’s father expects her to push down her own discomfort and anger for the betterment of the group while catering to everyone else’s emotional and physical needs. While this film seems low stakes, it explores a part of the father/daughter relationship that we rarely see onscreen. 

'Good One'
Cortland Jacoby
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
sundance-review-good-oneIndia Donaldson's directorial debut shows us the great outdoors and toxic parental relationships with a stellar performance from Lily Collias.