Netflix UK film review: The Good Nurse
Matthew Turner | On 26, Oct 2022
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne, Nnamdi Asomugha, Kim Dickens, Malik Yoba, Alix West Lefler, Noah Emmerich
Scripted by Krysty Wilson-Cairns and based on the 2013 book by Charles Graeber, The Good Nurse grips and shocks on multiple levels. Directed by Tobias Lindholm (A Hijacking), the true crime thriller is a disturbing account of how the public health system in the US essentially turned a blind eye to a serial murderer, for fear of acknowledging its own culpability.
Jessica Chastain plays real-life hero Amy Loughren, an ICU nurse and single parent who’s secretly hiding a heart-related issue, because she needs to have been in her job for a whole year before her insurance will cover her life-saving treatment. When she’s befriended by helpful recent transfer Charlie Cullen (Eddie Redmayne), the pair become close, but after the police begin investigating mysterious patient deaths, Amy becomes more and more suspicious of her new friend and colleague.
Chastain delivers one of her best performances to date as Amy. It is an instantly sympathetic, deeply compassionate turn – she’s first introduced turning a blind eye to letting visitors sleep over in the hospital with their loved ones, against departmental warnings. Similarly, her relationship with Redmayne’s Cullen is complex and interesting – there’s a level of complicity between them (both in keeping her secret and in pilfering the drugs she needs from supplies), which complicates her feelings as her suspicions grow, not least because she can’t believe someone that caring could be capable of such acts.
Redmayne underplays Cullen to strong effect as a quiet and essentially forgettable figure, making it easy to see how his crimes went undetected for so long, after his initial arrival at each workplace. There’s also terrific, scene-stealing support from Kim Dickens (as the health company’s risk officer) and from Nnamdi Asomugha and Noah Emmerich as the out-of-their-depth investigating cops, initially given the runaround by corporate obfuscation.
Lindholm and Wilson-Cairns’ storytelling approach is consistently rewarding – it’s easy to see how the same story could have been handled very differently, in 90s Nurse-From-Hell thriller-style, and there’s even a little nod to those movies in one babysitting scene. However, the film doesn’t sensationalise the murders or even play them for suspense, instead taking a commendably political angle and giving equal weight to the horror of the cover-up, something the ending hammers home in brutal fashion.
Throughout the film, Lindholm maintains a gripping pace and creates an oppressive atmosphere, accentuated by Amy’s constant fear that her own secrets will be discovered before she completes her year. That said, Jody Lee Lipes’ cinematography, while suitably murky, is a little too dark in places, which won’t do it any favours on the small screen.