In The Good Nurse, it is 2003 and Amy Loughren is a nurse and mother of two, working at Parkfield Memorial Hospital in New Jersey. Amy is a compassionate person, who cares deeply about her patients, and she balances her home life with night shifts in the ICU.
But Amy is struggling with her health. She has a life-threatening heart condition, which is made worse by the stress of her job, and with the hospital suffering a staffing issue she is tired and worn out on a daily basis.
This is until the hospital recruits a new nurse called Charlie Cullen, who has worked at multiple hospitals in the past, and appears to be the help Amy really needs. However, Charlie isn’t all he appears to be, and when patients die under mysterious circumstances, Amy begins to suspect Charlie’s involvement.
Directed by Tobias Lindholm, The Good Nurse stars Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne. The movie arrives on Netflix today and is based on Charles Graeber’s book, The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder, which as the title suggests is based on a true story.
The Good Nurse is a slow-burning drama, which details events surrounding the crimes of American serial killer, Charles Edmund Cullen. During the course of his time as a nurse, Cullen was responsible for at least 29 deaths (although it is believed to be around 400), and the film focuses on the months leading up to his arrest.
For the most part The Good Nurse isn’t a bad picture, and it benefits from two strong lead performances. However, despite some gold in the acting department, the film is flawed in various places, making this less appealing than it should be.
Eddie Redmayne takes on the role of Cullen, while Jessica Chastain plays Amy Loughren. The two are without doubt truly excellent in this picture, with Redmayne in particular giving a sinister turn as the killer.
For the vast majority of the film, Redmayne plays the part very understated, which adds a creepy undertone to all of his scenes. It is only during the latter part of the movie that he shows the true monster hidden under the surface, but it is certainly there in every inch of his performance.
As for Chastain, she is as reliably brilliant as ever, playing the very tired and very conflicted Amy. Her part in this film is to help expose Cullen’s crimes and everything she brings to the screen, from her emotional state right through to her maternal instincts and work ethic, feels authentic and believable.
This film works as well as it does, because of these two actors. They elevate the material they are given and are a superb pairing.
However, in terms of the movie itself, while it is decent stuff, The Good Nurse is quite slow moving, and rather dialogue heavy. While it is interesting and largely quite compelling throughout, it does plod along a fair bit and takes too long to unspool its story.
With Chastain and Redmayne involved, and selling the heck out of their parts, this movie could have been top notch stuff. Unfortunately, it has to settle for middle-of-the-road status, because it simply isn’t as dynamic, or as suspenseful or thrilling as it could be.
This story could have been told at a much faster pace, with far more depth, and a greater insight into the horrors taking place at the hospital. At all times it feels as if the movie is holding back from going to the dark areas that it could, and this seems like a wasted opportunity to tell this particular story.
But it is watchable and there’s enough going on in here to keep everything ticking along. So, as long as you lower your expectations, you should find it fine.