The Good Nurse, 2022.
Directed by Tobias Lindholm.
Starring Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne, Noah Emmerich, Nnamdi Asomugha, Kim Dickens, Devyn McDowell, Malik Yoba, Ajay Naidu, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Brooke Stacy Mills, Anjelica Bosboom, Rebecca Watson, Maurice J. Irvin, Victor Cruz, Andrew James Bleidner, and Shaun O’Hagan.
An infamous caregiver is implicated in the deaths of hundreds of hospital patients.
In The Good Nurse, Jessica Chastain plays Amy Loughren, a real-life nurse in 2003 with heart and a heart condition. As director Tobias Lindholm introduces viewers to Amy, focusing on her empathy for her patients and their gentle, playfully uplifting interactions, it’s clear that The Good Nurse sees them as human beings with meaningful lives and purpose rather than merely serial killer fodder.
Amy works the night shift, looking after several patients, including an elderly lady suffering from a garish skin reaction to a medication. She is gentle, optimistic, and caring with her patients and is willing to bend the rules to allow the next of kin to stay overnight (something she is reprimanded for due to the short-staffed nature of the New Jersey hospital). In turn, there is a lived-in authenticity to the trauma and pain the patients are going through and finding emotional support in loved ones (some of the best scenes involve paying attention to their battles).
Most known for collaborating with Thomas Vinterberg on his widely celebrated Danish features (Another Round and The Hunt), the filmmaker is working from a script by Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917 and Last Night in Soho) based on the book The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber, there is a conscious effort to tell this horror story while allowing the victims to maintain dignity. Considering Netflix has a stranglehold on the true crime market, it’s important to note that sensitive approach.
However, such long hours take a mental and physical toll. Despite having earnest small bonds with her patients, Amy would prefer being at home bonding with her actual family (two young daughters), whom she rarely gets to see. There’s also no room to take a break since she needs expensive heart surgery but doesn’t receive medical benefits until another four months of service.
Fortunately, there’s a new hire in Eddie Redmayne’s Charlie Cullen, a soft-spoken and equally compassionate caretaker who entered this professional realm of sickness and death for personal reasons; he watched his mom die, and the workers did a lackadaisical job of prepping the body for funeral services. They conducted their jobs toward her without consideration for her dignity. As such, cleaning up the recently deceased has become Charlie’s most passionate part of the job.
Charlie’s dedication to his patients renders him attractive in the eyes of Amy, bringing them together as close colleagues and friends. Immediately, there is something off about him, and to such a degree that it’s a bit tough to swallow how fast they become romantically intertwined (a two-month time script doesn’t necessarily help), but he is assisting with her patients and children (helping the eldest daughter recite lines for an upcoming play she hopes to receive a major role in). He demonstrates a fault in the medication retrieval system, allowing them to steal some goods for her heart without detection. Essentially, it’s also understandable how these red flags were missed.
Nevertheless, a patient suddenly turns up inexplicably dead after wrongful insulin administration. The hospital doesn’t seem too concerned about getting to the bottom of it, making the inevitable homicidal investigation needlessly difficult (they aren’t informed of foul play until two months later).
And while the relationship dynamic between Amy and Charlie stagnates (mostly because she waves off every possibility that he’s involved, exclaiming that she “really knows him”), the procedural aspect involving Noah Emmerich and Nnamdi Asomugha picks up that slack in suspense and urgency due to the unusual circumstances surrounding the case (the body is already cremated, interviews with employees are strictly monitored, and every prior hospital shortly has worked more instantly becomes petrified at the mention of his name and refuses to give any information).
With that said, The Good Nurse only scratches the surface of its greater points on systemic failures, Charlie’s motives (I’m aware he never explained why he murdered patients, but the script doesn’t seem interested in diving into the possibilities), and Amy’s life beyond the broad strokes of her hardships. The ending is also somewhat anticlimactic, although it’s welcome that the story and characters are always grounded in reality and humanity; a lesser filmmaker would have gone down the trashy survival route for the third act.
It’s also hard to go wrong with a lead performance from Jessica Chastain figuring out which part of her heart to prioritize, but here, Eddie Redmayne is the highlight as a convincing creep sending chills down spines.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com