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The Good Nurse ★★★★



Director: Tobias Lindholm

Cast:  Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne, Nnamdi Asomugha

Release: October 21, 2022 (Netflix) 

Pristine delicacy is needed when reconstructing actual crime with creative liberty – though most not always exercised – to provide sensitivity to those involved and affected by traumatic events. As is the case in The Good Nurse – namely-referential to Amy Loughren and the distressing period of her medical career in which she was faced with a spine-chilling labyrinth of patient murders. With Krysty Wilson-Cairns’ screenplay based on the 2013 book of the same name, director Tobias Lindholm has brought this powerful story to screen with raw tenacity and suitably unsettling engineering. With the real-life Amy having a heavy presence on set, resuscitating her past relationship with ex-colleague and now-incarcerated serial killer Charles Cullen makes this adaptation even more prolific. 

Nurse Amy (in the shape of Jessica Chastain) was and is the luminary in this true crime biography. She is a single mother giving herself entirely to her profession despite a life-threatening health issue and strenuous family life. We see first-hand the physical agony that her heart condition foists upon her, yet with two young daughters at home, she can’t dare take leave or reveal her affliction without proper health insurance to afford treatment. It leaves a tightness in the chest to watch, let alone think that such a dedicated agent of care and benevolence is being failed by the very system she works so hard to uphold.  

The circumstances in place make it unsurprising that the entrance of a seemingly compassionate nurse to Amy’s ICU, Charlie (Eddie Redmayne), offers potential. Charlie willingly volunteers to nurse her condition in secret by duping the computerised medication system to access prescriptions undetected and quickly becomes a mainstay to Amy and her girls. A sense of solace within the strain is everything when it comes to survival. Yet disguise and deceit are at the nucleus of this story – a masquerade is slowly exposed as a string of incomprehensible overdoses comes to a head. With the local authorities called to investigate the hospital, we navigate our protagonist’s disoriented, helpless psyche as a man entrusted at peak vulnerability becomes a villain beyond fathom. 

It’s a shame there is little air to the mystery – though you may know the culprit going in, greater narrative convolution could have laced the trickery better. Notwithstanding this, corporate greed within the American medical system adds some thought-provoking conspiracy – an alarming unspoken truism appears to have let the serial murderer be passed from hospital to hospital like a hot potato. The disguise motif echoes with effect as it’s clear the people in suits at the top have been circumventing blame (some nauseating figures at the film’s end really strike home). Perhaps there could have been more depth to the interactions that play out between the detectives and hospital execs; perhaps it’s part and parcel of the investigative thriller genre. 

Gratifyingly, the pure physicality Redmayne embraces of his villain piques the thriller’s tensest episodes. Without as much as a word, his sinister embodiment makes your whole body clench at sudden realisations of just how much-tormented evil lies behind those vacant eyes. Eddie always plays insularity well but delivers in this dishonourable role. At times, he is gentle and compassionate in his care, whilst moments of unhinged lunacy creep through and shatter a complex porcelain facade. Ultimately, the reciprocity of Chastain once again effortlessly lending herself to a character makes this duo a dream to watch. 

Set in a small town space within the dim rooms of the hospital, the quiet New Jersey streets or the coffee-cup-filled police precinct, there is certain claustrophobia to the tale. It might have gone unnoticed if there had been more time to flesh out the emotional bond between the pair. Nonetheless, for Lindholm’s first English-language debut, whilst The Good Nurse is not picture-perfect, formidable casting brings a harrowing reality to the screen with worthy capacity. 

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