The Good Nurse
Synopsis: A good nurse tries to stop a bad nurse from killing patients. (Streaming on Netflix as of November 2022)
Jessica Chastain is very believable as a tired person; her eyelids droop, her face looks drawn and her body seems on fading autopilot. In The Good Nurse she is good nurse Amy Loughren, underslept and overworked at the ICU in a New Jersey hospital. She’s a single mom who seems to be the sole support of her two young daughters. She also has a serious health issue that leaves her fatigued. Well, no rest for the weary– soon it will be up to her stop a killer colleague.
I would’ve liked it if it was a whodunnit with a cast of suspects. Too bad that the production didn’t have enough money to hire, say, Riz Ahmed, Eddie Redmayne and Ryan Gosling to keep us guessing. Alas, The Good Nurse doesn’t have a Marvel budget. It turns out that Eddie is Jess’ bad nurse and he more than holds his own.
The film is based on the true story of serial killer Charles Cullen who surreptitiously overdosed patients at a number of hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When Charlie came on staff in 2003 at Somerset Medical Centre, Amy Loughren and he became friends. He seemed to be a conscientious nurse and a mild-mannered guy. Seems being the operative word.
Now, I like Eddie Redmayne; in interviews he seems like such a nice person. (Even if he’s not as nice as he seems, he’s most likely not a serial killer. Right?) Notwithstanding Eddie’s unintentionally hilarious turn as Balem Abrasax in the terribly ridiculous Jupiter Ascending, he usually leans into his good guy persona. For example, naive and idealistic Marius in Les Miserables, and naive and idealistic Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts movies. You get the idea. So, it was quite the disconnect to see him haunting hospital rooms like the Grim Reaper.
New nurse Eddie puts on a good act with staff and soon he and the exhausted Jess are becoming friends; sharing pizza during work breaks and get togethers at her place. One time, Eddie helps one of the girls with a part in a school play. He runs lines with her and encourages her in a you-can-be -anything-you-want fashion. He keeps his wits about him and doesn’t blurt out: Try being a serial killer! Jess’ guard remains down. However…
Weird things are happening at the hospital. Jess and Charlie work in the ICU so patients’ dying is not unusual, but the stats start to tick upward. We see weakened Jess performing CPR (good technique!) in a valiant, but futile effort to save a person. Meanwhile, someone in Eddie’s care codes and doctors rush in while Eddie stands in a corner looking like he’s enjoying the drama. Why can’t he just follow celeb feuds for thrills like the rest of society?!
The Good Nurse isn’t a whodunnnit, but a howdunnit. The hospital launches an internal investigation, positioning to sweep under the rug what they figure is incompetence. When a Department of Health regulation requires local police to become involved, administration lets staff know that a hospital rep must be present for any interview, you know, if you are interested in keeping your job.
Meanwhile, patients who should make it are dying. Jess remains terribly tired, but Eddie helps out by ministering to her when she feels faint and even offering to babysit her kids. In spite of her fatigue, she notices some off things related to Eddie’s work and becomes suspicious. The tension is ratcheted up as Eddie continues to offer help to Jess and make surprise babysitting appearances at her house.
As if this good nurse does not do enough for everybody, the cops approach her and insist that she’s the only one who can bring down her killer friend. I mean, can’t they gather enough evidence to charge the guy? No! Jess must cajole him into confessing. Even though she might lose her job for cooperating with the police. And! Irony of ironies, although she works in healthcare, she is not yet eligible for health insurance benefits. So, if she loses her job, she’ll have to start at another hospital and wait many months before she’s covered. Unlike Eddie, who can just start killing as soon as soon as he arrives at a new hospital.
And so, we see Jess in the darkened halls of the hospital trailing Eddie, sneaking into rooms and checking to see that he hasn’t murdered yet another patient. Whenever we meet some patient –always lovely– and their concerned family members, we figure their hours are numbered. When Jess isn’t at work, she’s at home exhaustedly gazing at her daughters or spelling out to the numbskulls cops at the station how he’s doing it. (The howdunnit reveal is very chilling.)
So there you have it, a tale of good and evil in New Jersey that does not involve law enforcement and organized crime, but a flagging good nurse versus a chipper bad nurse. Goal #1, stop a killer. Goal #2, get health insurance. Both difficult, both necessary.
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