Photo: ‘The Good Nurse’
Working long nights in the ICU, battling a severe heart condition, and parenting two children as a single mother, Amy Loughren was happy to meet a new coworker and colleague that exerted energy that lifted weights off her shoulders. With their newfound friendship, Amy Loughren did not expect that she would fall into an objective to save the lives of any patients in the path of Charles Cullen, a nurse suspected to be responsible for the undetected murders of many patients. Hesitant, as she believed this was out of character for the charismatic and relatable Charles, the rise of deaths in the hospital following the employment of Cullen raised her suspicions. Teaming up with detectives Tim Braun and Danny Baldwin, Amy worked discreetly with the duo to get proof of the homicides and a confession from Charles. Dramatized from the real events in 2003 and the novel by Charles Graeber, ‘The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder’, ‘The Good Nurse’ brings the haunting serial homicides of Charles Cullen to the screen in this profound slow-burn.
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Jessica Chastain was given the honor to play the hero, Amy Loughren. In contrast to her role in ‘The Help’, Jessica drives the melancholy tone of the film with her performance of this overworked mother. Per usual, Jessica accomplishes capturing the attention of the audience through her talents. As the protagonist, Jessica has no problems leading the screen and radiating the dread of being the informant against her close work friend, Charles Cullen. Portrayed by Eddie Redmayne, seen in the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series, Charles Cullen depicts as a selfless and endearingly awkward nurse. Eddie Redmayne’s performance deserves acclaim for how he was able to take this soft-spoken character and create a subtly dark abnormality. From the interactions of Cullen and Loughren together with their patients, Chastain and Redmayne were able to create a jarring atmosphere throughout the film. Casting Chastain and Redmayne for the leading roles paid off as they effortlessly stole the scene whenever they appeared.
‘The Good Nurse’ – The Brooding Tone That Reflects This Dark Story
With previous director credits within the crime-drama genre, ‘Mindhunter‘s’, Tobias Lindholm showcased his ability to create an unsettling mystery. Lindholm used darkness to aid his telling of this bleak story by literally making it a dimly lit film. Most would picture hospital settings to be bright, as they are in actuality. However, the hospital that Loughren and Cullen work at, Somerset Medical Center, is one of the dimmest hospitals seen outside of horror films. There is a true mystery to that. Perhaps it was playing off the hospital’s orders to budget. Maybe the intention that Lindholm had with this was also to build the unnerving setting. It is one of the first things to notice when the film starts. In contrast to the harsh hospital fluorescents, the dark light supports the underlying attitude of the film, which is that there is just something wrong, lingering somewhere… but what is it?
Written by Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who co-wrote ‘1917’ and wrote the screenplay for ‘Last Night in Soho’, multiple threats are introduced in the film that creates foreboding and tension. Though based on real events, the inclusion of the protagonist’s heart disease, tiptoeing around a serial killer, and the frustration of an uncooperative corrupt hospital risk manager come together to create a hellscape that seems hopeless for justice. Even for those that know the case of Charles Cullen, there still remains the mystery of how and if the killer will be found guilty. Despite the true events, the conflicts that bombard Loughren and the detectives in the film are incredibly ambiguous. So much so that viewers may not know if Cullen will ultimately be caught. Being able to create antagonism so great is what defines great screenwriting.
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Lots of discourse on the ethicality of dramatizing real tragedies has stormed the media recently. With the recent release of ‘Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’, viewers and those that refuse to view the series wrote online about the lack of morality there is to create a story like this. Those opposed to the Dahmer series brought to light how the series romanticized the relationships Jeffrey Dahmer had with his victims. ‘The Good Nurse’ has mindfulness and is respectful to the victims and their families. Although Redmayne is a lead in the film, the film is told through the lens of Loughren, the heroic-nurse that helped take Cullen down. There have been moments of charisma from Cullen, but it played a part in the deception and shock that this unsuspected character was responsible for all these deaths.
Upon the rise of suspicion on Cullen, he remained a threat. Cullen is painted as a villain from the moment he is exposed to be one, which is what he truly is, a villain that took hundreds away from their families. Lindolm and Wilson-Cairns helped create this tragic and evil story that respected the victims. There is no empathizing with this real killer and no glorification of his actions. The film does an amazing job telling the story of a hero taking down Cullen and how selfless it was for Loughren to have gone to do what was right despite the risks to her health, occupation, and life. The real story to be told is about the hero, not the killer.
‘The Good Nurse’ is now available to stream on Netflix.
Actors: Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne, Nnamdi Asomugha, Kim Dickens, Noah Emmerich
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Writer: Krysty Wilson-Cairns (screenplay), Charles Graeber (based on the book by)
Producers: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Michael Jackman
Cinematography: Jody Lee Lipes
By Nino Vongphachanh
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