'The Good Nurse' review: Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain fumble through clumsy thriller
Courtesy of Netflix
Jessica Chastain plays a nurse trying to stop Eddie Redmayne’s killer rampage in the psychological thriller “The Good Nurse.” Based on the unbelievable true story of prolific serial killer Charles Cullen (Redmayne), a sociopath who used his credibility and job stature to murder patients in cold blood, “The Good Nurse” uncovers the power dynamics which lead to his apprehension, but the clumsy plotting and creative liberties taken by director Tobias Lindholm create an underwhelming though interesting experience. On one hand, the historical context of the narrative mixed with Chastain and Redmayne’s performances are enough to keep audiences on the hook for what comes next; on the other, “The Good Nurse” is like a SparkNotes version of what happened as important details feel glossed over in lieu of meaty acting showcases, which fail to offer the full scope (or horror) of Cullen’s actions.
The notorious killer went on a 15-year spree, where he was able to quietly murder at least 29 patients (that we know of), but some estimates see that number going above 400. Whenever foul play was suspected by hospital administrators, they would cover up the evidence and absolve themselves of any relations to Cullen. Yet, despite a disjointed job history and clear signs of untreated mental illness, staff-deprived hospitals would still hire him. Enter Amy Loughren (Chastain), a nurse/single mother with a cognitive heart disease that could kill her at any moment and who’s four months shy of receiving full health benefits.
Overworked and under-appreciated, Amy needs rest, but her four-month benefit timeline, and providing for a young daughter, means she can’t take less hours and quit. That’s where Charles, a recently hired and seemingly compassionate co-worker, offers to shoulder some of the load, vowing secrecy around her potentially fatal diagnosis and filling in as needed. What seems like a kind gesture slowly metastases into something far more gruesome as Amy’s patients, even ones that were healthy, begin dropping like flies. Nobody suspects Charles until a pair of police detectives (Noah Emmerich and Nnamdi Asomugha) are called in and start poking holes like the ones found in the hospital’s reserve IV-bags.
“The Good Nurse” is a compelling story with two watchable actors in the drivers’ seats, and while the movie stakes interesting claims on complicity and the financial burdens surrounding the battered American health care system, its factual vagueness and cliched riddled “true crime story” elements could make the viewer question the films legitimacy. Including a subplot that sees Charles become part of Amy’s family and befriending her young daughter (I was given immediate flashbacks to “One Hour Photo”). Redmayne’s performance has an undeniable charm and eerie sweetness opposite Chastain’s nurturing and persistent mother-figure and together the two actors get solid results, but they stumble through a surface level screenplay with stale direction, and minimal intensity.
THE GOOD NURSE streams on Netflix, Wednesday, October 26th.