Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne work together in a late-night hospital ward for about half of The Good Nurse, sharing little moments of relaxation as new coworkers. They portray a night shift pair of nurses working at a New Jersey intensive care unit where Charles Cullen, played by Redmayne, has recently been transferred. This is his ninth such finish.
With a crippling heart ailment, two young daughters to raise, and a horrifying lack of health insurance, Amy (Chastain, in one of her gritty performances) is up against it. Just learning that she needs a transplant will cost her $980. She relies on Charlie's mild concern and desire to watch her back as much moral support as she can. Patients with treatable diseases are suddenly passing away in the meantime, but Amy, not Charlie, is watching.
Consider Cullen to be a certain American Harold Shipman. Charles Graeber's true story of the same name, which detailed the methodical cunning of Cullen's crimes, including his use of saline drips that he pre-injected with insulin and other lethal drugs before colleagues hooked them up, served as the inspiration for screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns' (1917) lightly fictionalised drama-thriller.
But because the suspicious activity takes place off-screen, it takes a police investigation to connect the dots before Amy is able to make important decisions on her own. A pair of officers, played by Noah Emmerich and Nnamdi Asomugha, battle with the hospital's obstructionist risk manager (Kim Dickens). Director Tobias Lindholm makes the institutional callousness chill, if anything, more more than the motiveless serial killings, by using an incredibly sombre colour scheme and hypnotic Clint Mansell score. The pattern of Cullen inciting suspicion in one workplace, then being shifted about like a hot potato in another, reveals the foundation of American healthcare as a secretive profit-making venture.
The movie is also on the right track in its usage of Redmayne. Through Amy's perspective, Charlie emerges as a kind of sympathetic sidekick who describes his difficult divorce and wins her sympathy for being apart from his two children. When her suspicions begin to turn toward him, he still has a reptilian edge despite being convincing and a little puppyish.
Chastain gains the opportunity to introduce a small amount of guilt for not sniffing a rat earlier by thriving both opposite and away from him. The relationship between these two is remarkable because it stays unsettlingly dependant till the very end and is never adversarial, no matter how terrified Amy becomes. Both go under your skin, and Lindholm's sly restraint fits the material like a glove.