The Good Nurse review (LFF 2022): a safe serial killer movie

Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain shine in Netflix's latest serial killer movie about one of the most prolific murderers in recorded history

The Good Nurse review: Amy in the hospital

Our Verdict

The Good Nurse is full of powerful performances but struggles to stand out as a true crime story that we haven't seen before.

Directed by Tobias Lindholm, The Good Nurse is the latest film to take a crack at the public’s serial killer fascination and true crime media obsession. The drama movie isn’t filled with bloody deaths or screams; however, instead, it proves to be a very still and quietly unsettling look at foul play in a place of healing – a hospital.

Under the fluorescent lights and wearing blue scrubs, a murderer who is thought to have killed up to 400 people in real life stalks the halls. But despite this intriguing premise, once The Good Nurse gets down to the nitty-gritty of its story, here we have a case of too many big ideas and a lengthy script, ultimately getting in the way of a solid thriller movie reaching its full potential.

Based on the non-fiction novel of the same name by Charles Graeber, The Good Nurse follows the real-life events leading up to the arrest of the serial killer Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) after he transfers to a new hospital in America and befriends fellow nurse Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain). Written by Krysty Wilson Cairns (1917), The Good Nurse’s screenplay is told through the perspective of Amy, who is diagnosed with and suffering from a life-threatening heart disease.

Charles supports her through the difficult time in her life as she must continue working in order to qualify for health insurance, but once patients start mysteriously dying and the police get involved, Amy must face the dark truth about her new bestie and personal saviour. The Good Nurse’s script dives into hospital coverup conspiracies, police stakeouts, and relationship strife. It’s a melting pot of good ideas, and with Chastain and Redmayne’s chemistry, it can be a captivating watch in parts.

Like all movies based on true stories, such as Tom McCarthy’s 2015 flick Spotlight, The Good Nurse has that level of extra intrigue, pulling at our morbid curiosity as we wait for the criminals to be exposed. The grey colour tones and steady camera angles also propel a sense of realism, expertly crafting an atmosphere of the mundane – making the dark subject matter of Charles’ crimes stand out all the more.

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However, saying that, this atmospheric setup is rarely used in the grand scheme of things, as Charles’ presence or crimes aren’t really the focus of the film until its third act. The main problem facing The Good Nurse is that it, unfortunately, feels one-note in its tone. Even with its subject matter of detailing the life of one of, if not the most prolific serial killer in American history, it fails to craft suspense or keep us at the edge of our seats until the police get Amy involved in the case.

The first half of the film focuses more on the health concerns of Amy herself, with Charles acting as a small background character and crutch for the single mother trying to survive in the confines of the expensive healthcare system. While Amy’s story is exciting on paper, it does distract from the murders promised by the premise of the movie and causes a bit of narrative whiplash once the film hits its turning point.

Although we hardly see any deaths, or suspicious activity on Eddie Redmayne’s part during The Good Nurse, in the last hour of the film, we are suddenly thrown into a crime drama that moves at an achingly slow pace. Narratively, as mentioned above, The Good Nurse is filled with exciting ideas.

It brings up the morally dubious dealings with private health care as they cover up Charles’ crimes, talks about large-scale murder without showing it, and details the emotional turmoil of finding out that you’ve befriended a psychopath.

The Good Nurse review: Charles and Amy sitting on the floor talking

But Wilson-Cairns and Lindholm never fully follow through with these ideas, leading to a plot that feels spread thin, despite its small glimpses of potential. In short, The Good Nurse feels too normal, too easy, and as if it doesn’t know what message from the real-life murder cases that it is trying to convey.

While its writing may have a few faults, it should be noted that Chastain’s performance is outstanding. Her physical acting of a heart condition is realistic and terrifying, and she manages to carry the subtlety of self-confusion as she grapples with finding out the truth about Charles – who she has relied on for months.

Redmayne’s performance is also incredible, never crossing the line of caricature serial killer, and instead shocking us all with a sense of eery normalcy. However, his strong performance also reminds us of what could have been with this plot, and how his acting talents as a complex psychopath may not have been utilised to their full potential either.

The Good Nurse is a Netflix movie that, as a die-hard true crime fan, I wanted to love. However, despite its brief glimpses of impactful scenes and powerful third act, it just failed to hit that thriller sweet spot.

The Good Nurse hits US theatres on October 19, and UK cinemas on October 21 2022, before releasing on the streaming service Netflix on October 26.