Saturday 5 November 2022

Movie Review: The Good Nurse (2022)

A medical drama, The Good Nurse uncovers evil lurking where patients are most vulnerable.

In a prologue set at a Pennsylvania hospital in 1996, a patient suffers an unexpected seizure and dies despite desperate resuscitation attempts, with nurse Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) watching on.

In 2003, Charles joins the ICU night shift staff at Parkfield Hospital in New Jersey. He establishes a friendship with nurse Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain), a co-worker and single mom hiding a heart condition. She needs a transplant, but will only be eligible for health insurance after a full year of employment. Charles promises to help her reach that milestone.

Elderly ICU patient Ana Martinez dies unexpectedly. Detectives Baldwin and Braun (Nnamdi Asomugha and Noah Emmerich) investigate and encounter stonewalling by hospital administrators and lawyers, but uncover Charles' suspicious history of working at nine different hospitals and always departing under a cloud of silence. When another ICU death occurs at Parkfield, Amy suspects Charles of involvement and becomes the one inside source helping the investigators.

Based on actual events, The Good Nurse adapts Charles Graeber's true-crime book with more proficiency than artistry. Writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns pens a human-centred script focused on Amy's harried life, allowing Charles to emerge as a spectral shadow of death, a cold, efficient, and troubled killer lacking coherent motives. Director Tobias Lindholm embraces sickly hospital greys and greens, with subdued lighting to represent bleary night shift fatigue.

Some traction is achieved within this milieu, both Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne bringing admirable intensity to their roles, but with Cullen's guilt a matter of public record, dramatic tension remains limited. Lindholm stretches out the machinations to the two hour mark, and despite leveraging the twin horrors of a murderous nurse and a system more interested in avoiding lawsuits than saving lives, the third act is occupied with half-hearted motions pointing at foregone conclusions.

Amy's dilemma is amplified by initially perceiving Charles as an ally helping to relieve her work load, sympathetic to her serious health issue, and befriending her kids. Wilson-Cairns offers precious little else about Charles (he hints vaguely at the traumatic death of his mother), leaving the drama with a murky antagonist. The Good Nurse engages thanks to the source material's potency, but the missing shifts are also noticeable.

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