THE GOOD NURSE (2022)

October 26, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. A film focusing on a single mom who works as a dedicated and caring and overworked ICU nurse, and who is diagnosed with a heart condition requiring a transplant, and who is trying to hang on to her job long enough to secure medical insurance, and who is a loving mom to her two young kids, would normally have enough drama and stress to carry the story. But that’s not nearly enough for filmmaker Tobias Lindholm, who has written three outstanding screenplays: THE HUNT (2012), A WAR (2017), and ANOTHER ROUND 2020). Here he’s directing a Krysty Wilson-Cairns (LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, 2021) adaptation of Charles Graeber’s book about the man who may very well be the most prolific serial killer in history.

Jessica Chastain plays nurse Amy Laughren, who is faced with numerous challenges both at work and at home. Despite needing a heart transplant, she keeps this secret from her employer so that she can work the last few months needed to gain health insurance through the New Jersey hospital where she works. Strained beyond reasonableness, she sees hope when a new nurse is hired. Charlie Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) discovers her secret and offers to help her – not just with her patient workload, but also with her parenting responsibilities. Charlie is a Godsend for Amy.

Too soon, doubts begin to show. One of Amy’s patients dies unexpectedly, and the hospital administrator (Kim Dickens) calls the police, in what is a defensive move to protect the hospital’s business rather than uncover the truth. The detectives played by Noah Emmerich and (former NFL star) Nnamdi Asomugha feel handcuffed in their investigation as the hospital blocks their efforts at every turn. Their suspicion focuses on Charlie and his strange work history of being dismissed by 9 previous hospitals.

The obvious evil here is a medical professional who kills patients, but the enabler of this evil is a hospital system that values reputation and finances over the morally correct decisions. Both are frightening and both are dangerous. Cullen killed at least 29 people, and is suspected of killing upwards of 400. Lindholm sticks to a drab palette to match the grim subject matter, and both Ms. Chastain and Mr. Redmayne take low key approaches to two characters … one heroic and one truly dangerous.

Streaming on Netflix beginning October 26, 2022

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SYLVIE’S LOVE (2020)

December 22, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. For those who enjoy an old fashioned Hollywood romance, with set design and costumes taking priority over the intricacies of a story, then writer-director Eugene Ashe has the cure for what ails you. In contrast to the numerous films this year addressing topics of socially-conscious issues, this is an unapologetic, soapy, melodrama with beautiful actors and some cool jazz.

Tessa Thompson (CREED, 2015; AVENGERS: ENDGAME, 2019) stars as Sylvie, a young woman working in her daddy’s (Lance Reddick) Harlem record store while her fiancé is off fighting in the war. Her co-star is Nnamdi Asomugha (a 10 year NFL career, mostly with the Raiders) as Robert, a saxophone player in the Dickie Brewster Quartet. They have their ‘meet-cute’ moment, and despite the fiancé and Sylvie’s career aspirations of being a TV producer, they fall in love. The chemistry between Sylvie and Robert works because Ms. Thompson can light up the screen with her smile.

Director Ashe starts the movie in 1962 as Sylvie and Robert bump into each other by mere chance. It’s then that we flashback 5 years to their first meeting in the record shop. It doesn’t take long to establish that Sylvie is an expert on music and television, and has an independent streak that would be considered unusual for the era. As the two fall in love and appear well-matched, Robert’s group lands a prestigious gig in Paris. Just like that, the relationship is over.

Falling in and out of love over many years isn’t the right description for what happens to Sylvie and Robert. No, they are always in love (whether together or apart) … it’s just that life happens, and timing can be cruel in such matters. Additional supporting performances include Jemima Kirke as the Countess and Robert’s agent, a character based on Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter; Wendi McLendon-Covey as Lucy, a TV actor on a cooking show; Erica Gimpel as Sylvie’s appearances-obsessed mother; Eva Longoria as Carmen, replete with a New Year’s Eve song and dance routine; John Magaro as a music producer; and Alamo Miller as Lacy, Sylvie’s fiancé and husband. Despite her limited screen time, Aja Naomi King is a standout as Sylvie’s friend and party-girl-turned Civil Rights Activist. Her character is one of the few that gives any indication of what’s happening socially in the country at that time.

It’s a film that fully embraces the melodrama – a predictable love story, contrived to the point that Sylvie keeps a secret so personal that we would ordinarily find her despicable; yet in this film, her actions are presented as compassionate. Mr. Ashe’s film is a soap opera that looks fantastic, while glossing over the real challenges faced by blacks in the era. It’s truly a throwback in style, era, and substance. The people are beautiful. The cars are shiny. The music is hypnotic. Production design by Mayne Berke and Costumes by Phoenix Mellow add to the elegance presented by Ms. Thompson and Mr. Asomugha. You surely know if this is your type of movie. See you later alligator.

Available on Amazon Prime December 23, 2020

watch the trailer