The Good Nurse

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

The Good Nurse
dir Tobias Lindholm
scr Krysty Wilson-Cairns
prd Scott Franklin, Darren Aronofsky, Michael Jackman
with Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne, Noah Emmerich, Nnamdi Asomugha, Kim Dickens, Malik Yoba, Alix West Lefler, Gabe Fazio, Ajay Naidu, Moe Irvin, Maria Dizzia, Marcia Jean Kurtz
release UK 21.Oct.22,
US 28.Oct.22
22/US 2h01

emmerich asomugha dickens
london film fest

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The Good Nurse
Based on a harrowing true story, this medical drama has a strongly provocative tone right from the start. Darkly moving, the events unfold with a creeping intensity that's gripping, as director Tobias Lindholm focusses tightly on two complex central characters who are grappling with properly unnerving issues. This internalised approach keeps the audience involved in the narrative twists and turns, even when the thriller plot tries to take over.
In 2003 New Jersey, Amy (Chastain) is juggling life as a single parent with working demanding night shifts as an intensive-care nurse. She also has a serious heart condition. New nurse Charlie (Redmayne) offers her support at work, and becomes a personal friend as well. After a suspicious death in the hospital, two detectives (Emmerich and Asomugha) arrive to investigate. But they are stymied at every turn by uncooperative hospital officials like risk manager Linda (Dickens). And when Amy notices anomalies in Charlie's work, she finds it hard to believe he could be a killer.
With such a chilling premise, this film's most unsettling revelation concerns the way hospitals have developed a system to cover up malpractice (or much worse in this case) for fear of being sued. Echoes of the Roman Catholic Church are hard to ignore. Inventively, Lindholm reveals this through Amy's churning emotionality, as she realises that doing the right thing will have enormous consequences. Charlie's friendship is exactly what Amy needs at this moment in time, so each encounter plays on multiple dramatic levels.

These first-rate actors deliver offhanded performances that ripple with underlying feelings, which erupt into something far more textured than expected. Chastain is superb as a steely woman who is barely hanging on, and now is facing something unthinkable. Her calm-in-a-storm mentality is riveting to watch, especially as she faces the truth about Redmayne's nice-guy Charlie. His role is skilfully underplayed, creating a thoughtful, generous man who seems incapable of hurting anyone. It's a devastating role, beautifully played.

In its second half, the film becomes more plot-driven as Amy nervously works with the police. This involves maintaining her friendship with Charlie, acting as if she isn't completely freaked out. This allows the cast members to add more nuances to the characters. So even if the deeper emotional intrigue gives way to procedural details, the film is wrenchingly moving, played with depth of feeling without tipping over into melodrama. And perhaps the biggest shock is that the hospital officials who knew what was happening have never been charged.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 19.Oct.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall