The Good Nurse stars big-name actors Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne. An equally important cast member is cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes, who enlivens the film’s themes of deception, betrayal and creeping dread in ways that the screenplay fails to.
Indeed, Lipes’s remarkable compositions and lighting design, complemented by Adam Nielsen’s tightly controlled editing, are the true stars of Tobias Lindholm’s medical thriller. The Netflix release is dunked in a chilly grey palette, has scene after scene of perfectly framed characters, and a judiciously judged shooting style that amps up the suspense and ratchets up the tension. The editing creates a rhythm that easily distracts from the holes in the script, which is maddeningly coy when it should have been explicit.
The film is based on a real-life incident that drew attention to the callous lack of oversight at American hospitals. Amy (Chastain) is a single mother with a heart condition and a demanding job as an Intensive Care Unit nurse. Amy gets some respite when she is paired with Charlie (Redmayne) on her night shifts.
The bond between Amy and Charlie is soldered by their similar marital situations – both are divorced and both have two daughters – and their work ethic. When ICU patients begin dying, a couple of police investigators suggest that all might not be well with Charlie.
Several questions remain unanswered. It is perhaps convenient that a hospital that doesn’t care to vet its employees is clueless about Amy’s deteriorating health. Also, what’s with the glaring lack of doctors? And why is Amy, intuitive and alert at all times, not more inquisitive about Charlie’s antecedents?
The 123-minute film maintains its conceit for a reasonable duration on the strength of its technical sheen, well-judged performances by the leads, and solid turns by the supporting cast, which includes Nnamdi Asomugha and Noah Emmerich as the police detectives. The intimate nature of intensive care units, the strains of nursing and the agony of family members are all there. What’s missing is a plausible thriller that tells us something revealing and lasting about medical malpractice.