REVIEW: The Good Nurse (2022)

Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain in THE GOOD NURSE — PHOTO: Netflix / JoJo Whilden.

Directed by Tobias Lindholm — Screenplay by Krysty Wilson-Cairns.

Like the many films with the word ‘American’ in the title (American Sniper, American Gangster, American Ultra, American Hustle, American Pie, etc.), films or shows with ‘Good’ in the title are a dime a dozen. The Good Dinosaur, The Good Wife, The Good Doctor, and so on and so forth. Let’s just say that Tobias Lindholm’s The Good Nurse has a very generic title. I’d love to be able to say that the film isn’t like that. But, honestly, it is a fairly generic but ‘okay’ film that somehow has a great cast, director, and screenwriter.

Based on the Charles Graeber true crime book of the same name, The Good Nurse tells the story of how police detectives (played by Nnamdi Asomugha and Noah Emmerich) had to team up with Amy Loughren (played by Jessica Chastain), a nurse at Parkfield Memorial Hospital, due to being stonewalled by hospital administrators. The investigators need Amy to gather information about her colleague and friend, Charles Cullen (played by Eddie Redmayne), who they suspect has been intentionally killing patients at several hospitals over the years.

As this is directed by two-time European Film Award-winning Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm, whose credits include The Hunt (co-writer), A War (writer-director), and Another Round (co-writer), The Good Nurse is a film that has been on my radar for quite some time. The story seems fascinating and horrifying, the cast is spectacular, and the focus on how hospital administrations allegedly allowed some of this to go on to avoid mass lawsuits is full of eye-opening potential. And, indeed, Lindholm — along with 1917 and Last Night in Soho writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns — does target the administrative shortcomings that make it difficult for dedicated hospital workers to do their jobs, as well as the system that both forces good hospital workers to keep quiet to keep their job and which allows for someone like Charles Cullen to slip through the cracks over and over again. The drab and bleak color tones feel appropriate and add to this focus on a health system that allegedly has so many problems, even though American citizens should be able to rely on it. It is the most interesting thing about the film, as we see administrators intentionally trip up the police investigation led by Nnamdi Asomugha’s character for the purpose of limiting their legal problems rather than focusing on patient safety.

The rest of it feels rather predictable or telegraphed. You know pretty much where it is going when the main characters run into each other. And it is the performances that keep you invested. Chastain is solid as this very kind woman trying to sort things out, but the performance perhaps doesn’t leave a significant impression. Redmayne plays that loner quiet with a fire burning inside just waiting to lash out fairly well, but it’s tough to really get a deeper understanding of the character. I did immediately wonder — as the film came to an end — whether this actually gives you any more than what a Wikipedia entry would. I don’t think it does. But I do like that the film is primarily centered around the good people who did a good job in an attempt to bring an end to the madness that the health system allegedly refused to deal with. The filmmakers know whose story this should be, which can be a problem with some true crime stories about real-life serial killers.

When you have a film from a director-screenwriting team that is as talented as the Lindholm and Wilson-Cairns duo along with leads like Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne, you expect something really great. This isn’t that. It is a mostly unremarkable but generally decent true crime drama that ultimately gives you the idea that reading the Wikipedia entry on the story might be more interesting, even though Chastain and Redmayne deliver fine performances. Though it should be said that it is an alarming and damning account of alleged shortcomings at American hospitals.

6.9 out of 10

– Review Wriitten by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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