By Samuel M Acosta
I knew almost nothing going into this movie. All that knowledge that I had was that it was a slow-burn drama. This led to me having a mixed reaction to my experience with “The Good Nurse.” While there was a deeply fascinating true story at the foundation of the film, it clung to the slow-burn genre in a way that made me fight to stay engaged. Even when I reached the huge climax of the film, I didn’t feel like I was being rewarded for my patience.
“The Good Nurse” followed Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain), a single mother working as a nurse in New Jersey. Amy discovered that she had developed a heart condition due to her high-stress and physically demanding job. Though she was advised to stop working in order to undergo surgery, Amy declined, stating that she had not worked at the hospital long enough to have the medical insurance she needed to be able to afford treatment. She decided that she will push through for four more months before revealing her condition to her boss.
Around this time Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) began working at the hospital. He quickly became friends with Amy and noticed her struggling. He agreed to help her on her shifts so that she wouldn’t strain herself too much while she waited for her insurance. As they grew closer, however, Amy noticed some odd things happening around the hospital. Patients under Cullen’s care were suddenly dying… and rumor has it this wasn’t the first hospital this had happened at. Amy is forced to go on a mission to find out the truth before more people are killed.
Let’s start with the positives, which were first and foremost the lead actors. Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain did a wonderful job in this film. Eddie played Charlie with such a genuine innocence that it made it hard for us to believe that he was not what he says he was. We wanted to root for Charlie and find it difficult to view the dichotomy between the kindness he shows and the cruelty that he practices. Jessica also did a great job of making us feel bad for Amy. She was a victim of a terrible system and was risking her life just to make sure that her family was not financially ruined. In doing so, we watched her struggle to be the mother her kids wanted her to be and the pain that came with that. When Charlie offered her relief, of course she took it, but when she found out the truth, she realized just how deeply he had infiltrated her life. It was an incredible dynamic and very clearly the strongest aspect of this film.
The other aspect that I really enjoyed about this film was the true story behind it. Charlie Cullen, called by some “The Angel of Death”, was an American serial killer who murdered an unknown number of victims by tampering with their IVs while working as a nurse in various hospitals. Many hospitals covered this up to avoid responsibility, further enabling him to kill, until Amy finally helped the police take him down. Something that I appreciate about the movie is that they don’t romanticize Cullen by allowing him to make a case for why he did what he did or glorify his actions. He is condemned and there is no justification for his crime. I think in the wake of a serial killer mania among people, generating shows such as Netflix’s “Dahmer,” this was a pleasant change. I was happy to hear of something I’d never heard of before and that was refreshing in an era where everything feels repeated.
What pulled me out of all of that, however, was the pacing. Now, I understand that the movie was a slow-burn, and I am ok with those types of films. What these types of movies require is a payoff for the patience that an audience member invested in a slow-paced movie. I didn’t feel like the payoff was there. “The Good Nurse” felt to have slowly crawled all the way into the credits. No big arrest or revelation. It all just slowly progressed to a logical conclusion. In a way, there is a certain beauty to that. However, it did leave me bored, which is not something you want for a movie.
So I think that “The Good Nurse” landed in a middle ground for me. It had wonderful acting and a great story to tell, it just took too much time to tell it. Still, I think that it was a movie worth watching if only to learn the story of Charlie Cullen, the Angel of Death, and how a woman named Amy Loughren risked her life and family to stop him.
I give “The Good Nurse” a 6/10
“The Good Nurse” is available to watch on Netflix
Samuel M Acosta is a Senior Theatre Comprehensive Major and an Arts and Entertainment writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper and writing plays.
Images courtesy of Netflix