'The Good Nurse' Review: Jessica Chastain & Eddie Redmayne In Crime Thriller Based On A True Story
As the old saying goes, there are no good nurses without bad nurses. Surely that's a thing. Either way, here's a film that certainly features both sides of the coin since director Tobias Lindholm's brooding crime drama The Good Nurse is adapting Charles Graeber's nonfiction book of the same name which tells the real life story about America's perhaps most lethal serial killer ever. Jessica Chastain stars as Amy Loughren, a nurse and single mother of two who develops a friendship with her new co-worker Charlie Cullen (Eddie Redmayne). Once unexpected deaths occur to her patients, tracing back to overdoses of insulin, Amy suspects Charlie to be behind them, leading her to work with local detectives Baldwin (Nnamdi Asomugha) and Braun (Noah Emmerich) to uncover the truth.
Considering how impactful and terrifying the real story is, it shows courage to have the film revolve around Amy and her interactions with Charlie. That gamble pays off because Chastain and Redmayne have terrific screen chemistry and carry scenes on their own, too. Redmayne impressively abandons his typical tendencies as a performer as he's constantly dancing on the line of being either inviting or manipulative while Chastain carries the weight of being stuck in two difficult situations and having to act like a mom by swiftly altering her movement, posture and voice.
There is a level of matter-of-factness to Lindholm's approach and Krysty Wilson-Cairns' writing which helps to make the point that sometimes great actors delivering solid work and competent visual storytelling are all you need for a successful film. At times there are distractions, like few choppy edits by Adam Nielsen that seem to be at the mercy of getting the movie under two hours, or DoP Jody Lee Lipes' lighting which combined with muted colour grading works most of the time as we're seeing the world through Amy's tired eyes but can lose some of the bright spots like her family life.
More often than not, though, Lindholm's direction and scene work are effective for this intriguing story when it truly matters. He places Charlie in a corner of the room when he is, well, cornered by the detectives, Amy finally sees through his façade when she's literally looking at see-through IV bags which bring out body bags later, mirror shot of Charlie walking in hospital hallways displays his two-faced nature in his workplace, and Charlie's enablers always keep something—a table for example—in between them and him to avoid looking like they're complicit. There could've been more mystery elements in that vein for those who are unfamiliar with the events but at least this approach compliments actors' commitment to acting out those beats.
Smileys: Acting, story
Frowneys: Minor issues with lighting and editing
Working the night shift? Graveyard shift seems more appropriate.