THE GOOD NURSE. Jessica Chastain proves that she’s one of the best in the business
While it’s hard to say that The Good Nurse is, on paper, any particularly exciting production, I was looking forward to the film. First, because it’s the English-language film debut of a great Danish director, Tobias Lindholm (he also directed two episodes of Mindhunter), and second – and perhaps most importantly – because of of Jessica Chastain, whose talent I’m a big fan of and who I consider one of the best modern actresses. And with her role in The Good Nurse, she only confirms this.
Amy Loughren is the most wonderful nurse you can imagine. She’s conscientious, kind and just plain human – when an elderly gentleman explains to his wife that he can’t stay in the hospital room with her overnight, Amy hints that one of the chairs is foldable, and offers a warm blanket to cover her. A real angel, eh? And to top it all off, she doesn’t worry about scolding from her boss – which actually happens – because she’s simply a nurse by vocation. She works exclusively on night shifts in intensive care, where patients with minor ailments don’t go. Amy thinks only about how to make these poor people’s stay in her ICU as painless as possible, even though she has to fight the pain herself. She suffers from a life-threatening heart condition, but for the sake of her two daughters, whom she is raising alone, she must persevere at work for at least four more months – only then will she be covered by full health insurance, allowing her to go on sick leave. And it is in this four-month continuance that the heroine is helped by Charlie Cullen (Eddie Redmayne), a newly hired nurse who seems like an angel to Amy.
The Good Nurse is another example of a film harmed by its own trailer – for in it far too much is revealed, and I myself am glad that I watched the teaser only after watching Tobias Lindholm’s film. This allowed me to rely on my ignorance – for I was not familiar with the story told in Charles Graeber’s book on which The Good Nurse was based, so up to a certain point Lindholm’s film provided me with a certain dose of suspense. That’s why it’s a good idea to avoid trailers before the screening – that way you can enter at your own pace, with a certain level of ignorance, into the intrigue, which, although served coolly, holds you in suspense like a thoroughbred detective story. For when patients start dying in the hospital under mysterious circumstances and with increasing frequency, an investigation will have to be conducted that will uncover some terrifying secrets.
The Good Nurse is an almost exemplary thriller – it starts inconspicuously, even quietly, to enrich the narrative with new facts and events with each scene, changing the situation from minute to minute. The tension in Lindholm’s film correlates with Amy’s state of knowledge – the good-natured nurse is also innocent and naïve in a childish sort of way, because even in the face of multiplying doubts she does not suppose that her immediate surroundings may be marked by lies and crime. Amy is the titular “good nurse” – even despite her own health limitations, she fully focuses on her work, from which she derives great satisfaction. She is not frightened by the condition of successive patients, most often very serious and life-threatening. Even when she has to notify loved ones of a patient’s death (by the way, shouldn’t a doctor do that?), Amy doesn’t doubt her vocation. She doesn’t do so even when she discovers the cruel truth.
Tobias Lindholm proves once again that he is a filmmaker of great talent. This time, however, he doesn’t leave as much room for moral considerations as he did in A Hijacking (2012) or A War (2015). However, there is still a lot of ambiguity in The Good Nurse – when the crime and its author are discovered, the motivations remain a mystery. Lindholm seems to be saying: does committing a heinous act invalidate the fact of being the titular Good Nurse?