Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain simmer nicely in Netflix true-crime thriller The Good Nurse
“There was a rumour about him, that he was responsible for a death…”
Truth be told, I’m not much of a one for documentary true-crime in the way that it has exploded in popularity in recent years, but The Good Nurse falls more into the ‘based on a true story’ aesthetic (IMHO) so I opted to give it a whirl. Plus, the Netflix film has Academy Award-winners Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne at the helm to further tempt the appetite.
Based on Charles Graeber’s book of the same name, the film follows the shocking true story of Charles Cullen, a nurse from New Jersey who was convicted of killing at least 29 people and suspected of being involved in over 400 deaths, over a period of 16 years. We also meet Amy Loughren, a fellow nurse whom he befriended but who eventually clocked some suspicious behaviour and worked with the police to stop him.
Written by Krysty Wilson-Cairns and directed by Tobias Lindholm, The Good Nurse pulls a neat trick in avoiding the occasional distastefulness of the genre by turning out to be just as interested in the institutional failings that allowed Cullen to work unimpeded, as it is a serial killer flick. Whilst we’re in no doubt as to what he’s up to, we’re appalled in a different way by the manner in which multiple hospital authorities to their damnedest to avoid any responsibility.
Chastain plays Loughren with a fine understated conviction. Suffering from cardiomyopathy but unable to claim health benefits until she’s worked in this job for a year (the US health system really doesn’t come off well here), she’s unwittingly sucked into Cullen’s orbit as he insinuates his way into her life to the point where she blinks and he’s at her home making dinner with her kids. Her emotions tightly controlled for the most part, the subtle way she indicates fear is mesmerising.
Redmayne is equally intriguing as Cullen, although he does have less to work with. In the admirable decision not to centre him here, somewhat necessitated by the amount that is unknown about him and his crimes, we do lose some of the depth that could have been brought to a fictionalised version. But he’s plenty creepy and there’s strong work from Nnamdi Asomugha and Noah Emmerich as the investigating police officers who work tirelessly to bring belated justice where the hospital suits would have none.