Disregarding the many tropes of true crime drama, The Good Nurse falters at times but succeeds for the most part — read on for our review of the highly rated Netflix movie, which premiered on September 11 2022.
Netflix has been having a field day with serial killers. That didn’t sound right, but the streaming service has been putting out series and movies all about these infamous criminals non-stop. They don’t do it right sometimes (see Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and the criticisms against it for exploiting the victims), but it seems that they’ve succeeded with The Good Nurse.
The Good Nurse review: A disturbing and cautionary tale
Unsurprisingly, the film is based on the true story of serial killer Charlie Cullen, played here by Eddie Redmayne and not related in any way to the sparkly vampire. Is it a spoiler if you already know he’s a killer? Maybe. But unlike other serial killer movies/TV shows, The Good Nurse doesn’t actually revolve around Cullen. The good nurse isn’t Cullen, in case you were confused, but Jessica Chastain’s Amy Loughren, who helped bring Cullen to justice.
The audience first sees Amy as a struggling nurse: her daughters feel like she’s distant due to her hectic work schedule and it’s also taking a toll on her health. Despite all this, she strives to be, ahem, a good nurse, going above and beyond to provide her patients with the care they need.
Charlie Cullen arrives in the midst of all her troubles. Though the film makes it clear from the extended one-shot in the opening that something sinister lurks beneath, he’s actually a light in Amy’s dimming world, and this is one of the things that’s disturbing about Cullen. Amy lets him into her life in such an intimate way and she’s oblivious to what he’s doing to the patients. In fact, she goes on his defence in the beginning, claiming that Cullen would never do such a terrible thing.
And it’s not her fault at all. A glance at Cullen’s Wikipedia page makes it obvious that he has severe problems. But since the film is basically told from Amy’s point of view, he’s not just normal, but actually a true friend to her. You can doubt the accuracy of the film’s portrayals, of course, though they made a point of not making Cullen’s victims true-to-life out of respect, something that seems to be lacking when it comes to true crime projects.
Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain’s individual portrayals shine through but it’s actually their chemistry that makes the film as tense as it is. These two great actors playing off each other is a masterclass in acting, though it’s sadly dampened by the somewhat bland writing. I found myself actually longing to be on the edge of my seat but my ass just couldn’t get there.
For a serial killer movie, however, it’s not Cullen’s under-the-radar murders that terrified me nor was it the way he was such an integral part in the life of Amy. What sent chills down my spine was the fact that Cullen’s employers washed their hands of responsibility for his actions so easily. This, at least, was where the writing succeeded in making me feel a disturbing mix of anger and great hesitance to ever go to a hospital ever again.
For the most part, The Good Nurse succeeds in carving a place for itself in a plethora of serial killer shows and movies. Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain carry the weight of this film with ease and deliver powerful performances, but the movie does lag at certain points. Be warned though: you may never look at healthcare institutions the same again.
I’m going to research countries with great healthcare now, just in case.
If you’re intrigued by our review, you can watch The Good Nurse on Netflix here.
(All images: JoJo Whilden/ Netflix)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Bangkok