THE GOOD NURSE – Review by Diane Carson

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The Good Nurse dramatizes suspenseful, terrifying medical villainy

Films and television series highlight criminal activity in its many incarnations. Of course, nefarious deeds deliver conflict, tension, and suspense as perpetrators are pursued. But there’s an exceptionally unnerving impact with blatant disregard of life when it revolves around intentional medical malice. At least, that’s how I felt throughout the unsettling, masterfully presented The Good Nurse.

The first image announcing “Based on a True Story” makes this narrative even more disturbing. If that’s not sufficient, the information provided at the end credits adds even more distress (not revealed here for those not familiar with these events.) As the chronicle begins, that recognizable but dreaded hospital beeping of a seizure code sounds. It’s 1996 Pennsylvania, St. Aloysius Hospital, as the camera slowly creeps to a closeup of a composed Charlie Cullen.

The story jumps to 2003 New Jersey, Parkview Memorial Hospital, where Charlie now works and befriends compassionate but stressed ICU nurse Amy Loughran. Mother of two young daughters (four and seven), Amy suffers from a serious heart condition for which, ironically, she won’t have complete medical coverage until the end of the month. Slowly and painfully, she will have to pursue the inexplicable deaths from contamination of IV solutions. At the same time, two homicide detectives find the hospital administrator blocking their investigation. Clearly and carefully, the truth emerges through chilling confrontations. Most appalling, it becomes clear that medical bureaucrats suppress any negative facts even when that means further deaths.

In his first English language film, Danish director Tobias Lindholm demonstrates his affinity for suspenseful, developing concerns, as he did in his previous Another Round, The Hunt, and A Hijacking. Several scenes impress with an earned, nervous friction. His cast delivers with Jessica Chastain as Amy and Eddie Redmayne as Charlie, Noah Emmerich and Nnamdi Asomugha as the two frustrated but stubborn detectives. More overt drama could have helped Jody Lee Lipes’ low-key cinematography that skews too green and dimly lit. On balance, though, The Good Nurse lingers in my thoughts and emotions with its indictment of the health-care business.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.