Review by Sean Boelman
A true story starring Oscar winners Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain should be immediate awards fodder on paper, but when one watches The Good Nurse, they will be left to wonder what went wrong. It’s a cold, distant drama that doesn’t make anything of its premise whatsoever, resulting in a film that is entirely unpleasant to watch.
The film tells the story of one of America’s most prolific serial killers, a caregiver who was implicated in the mysterious deaths of hundreds of hospital patients. In the true crime phenomenon that has swept the nation in recent years, this story is certainly intriguing, but Krysty Wilson-Cairns’s screenplay is so bland that it can’t hold the audience's interest.
The film’s biggest issue is that it cannot seem to decide what angle it wants to take on this story. Is it the story of a sick mother who is trying to work her hardest to make ends meet, only for things to be thrown off by a maniacal killer? Or is it a tale of a good man who’s gone mad and the woman who is trying to save him? Either would have worked, but pivoting between the two so drastically is off-putting.
Perhaps most frustratingly, the film fails to engage on any deeper level with its potential themes. This story suggests some questions about the ethics of the healthcare system, but the film doesn’t really explore them. Instead, it’s too interested in the deceit of the character and shocking the audience with its bafflingly obvious twist.
The more impressive of the two performances comes from Eddie Redmayne, although his turn is still one of the weakest of his career. Granted, he can only do as much as the role is written, and the character shifts very suddenly and inexplicably. However, what can be blamed on Redmayne is his accent, which is absolutely distracting throughout the film.
Jessica Chastain’s performance, like usual, is not particularly nuanced, but as much can be blamed on the writing as on her acting. She’s doing her regular schtick that she has gotten so much acclaim for in the past, but it doesn’t really fit for this role. It feels like she was cast more to lend the project prestige than for her fit with the character, as it makes the character feel unduly cold.
Tobias Lindholm’s direction is extraordinarily gray and cold, which makes sense to an extent — it is a film that is meant to be highly clinical after all. But with the film being this uninteresting in a visual sense, it leaves a lot of suspense on the table. It feels like a melodrama, not the suspenseful thriller that it should have been.
Although it’s sure to get a lot of streaming play thanks to its unbelievable true crime story, The Good Nurse might be one of the most uninspired films in recent memory. The actors and director try the best with what they are given, but the script is so underwhelming that nothing could have been made of it.
The Good Nurse streams on Netflix beginning October 26.