In the fall of 2003, a new nurse arrived at a quiet hospital in the middle of New Jersey. He was mild-mannered and affable, with an impressive resume of former gigs. His name was Charles Cullen. Call him Charlie.
He quickly became friends with fellow nurse Amy Loughren, who was also good at her job and kind to those who came into her orbit. Both were hiding secrets: Amy had recently learned she had a disease that required a heart transplant, one she could not afford until she had finished up six months at her new-ish gig at the hospital (that’s, of course, when her medical benefits kicked in); Charlie was a serial killer.
What happened when Amy met Charlie, and then discovered his horrifying secret and helped bring him to justice, is well-dramatized in Tobias Lindholm’s appropriately chilly “The Good Nurse.” Based on Charles Graeber’s book “The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder” and exactingly adapted by “1917” screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Lindholm’s version of a serial killer procedural drama keeps everyone, from its twisted murderer to the woman who finally stopped him and even the audience itself, at a remove. It’s a nifty fit for the Danish filmmaker behind similarly cold-blooded dramas like “A War” and “A Highjacking,” who establishes a sense of unease from the film’s opening moments and never quite relents.
Initially kicking off in Pennsylvania in 1996, “The Good Nurse” introduces Charlie (Eddie Redmayne) in his favorite habitat: a drab hospital, where a patient is dying before his very eyes. As the pressure mounts and Charlie moves gingerly out of the way, all sloped shoulders and put-on attentiveness, cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes pushes in, closer and closer. Even as the patient dies and the rest of the hospital staff reels, Charlie doesn’t flinch. The audience, however, will.
Seven years later, Charlie lands a new job at yet another hospital, one shortchanged by budget cuts and very much in need of good help. Nurse Amy Loughren (a perfectly calibrated Jessica Chastain) is wonderful at her job, but it’s taken a major toll on her, both physically (soon we’ll learn more about the ailment that keeps her out of breath and always scared) and emotionally (a single mom, Amy is constantly just scraping by to keep her two cute daughters in sneakers and under one roof). Charlie seems like a godsend, someone not just capable when it comes to nursing, but genuinely interested in Amy and her girls’ life. They bond immediately, and within weeks, it’s as if Charlie was always a part of Amy’s life.
There is so much she doesn’t know. But she’ll find out.
JoJo Whilden / Netflix
While Graeber’s book covered much about the case, the author spent significant pages detailing the real-life Cullen’s biography, attempting to unravel his pathology, and even took aim at the broken nature of America’s hospital system itself, but Wilson-Cairns zeros in on Amy’s life as the emotional center of the story, grounding this nightmare in something very real. Her screenplay also introduces a handful of Cullen’s victims (now estimated to push past 300 total) as they enter Amy’s orbit and eventually come into contact with Charlie. With so many victims, it would be impossible to include even a fraction of them all, but Wilson-Cairns spends precious time on a pair of women who are ultimately killed by Charlie’s nefarious techniques, but only after Amy (and the audience) have come to know them.
These choices provide emotional ballast for what’s to come, and push Chastain into delivering an effective performance in a very quiet package. While the stakes of bringing Charlie to justice stretch far beyond just Amy and her family, keeping us fixed on Amy, a naturally sympathetic character, adds necessary emotion, particularly as “The Good Nurse” moves into more procedural territory.
After one death, a pair of local cops (Noah Emmerich and Nnamdi Asomugha, both solid) are brought into investigate, even though the hospital and its lead administrator (a steely Kim Dickens) give them precious little to work with. But as they’re hammering away at this strange case, Amy is also starting to wonder what’s really going on with her good friend Charlie, and as the trio come together to unravel the mystery and the murders, “The Good Nurse” snaps further into focus, culminating in a spine-tingling (if likely slightly fictionalized) showdown in which Chastain finally reveals her full power and Redmayne doesn’t flinch.
Anyone looking for reasons as to why Charlie did what he did will not find them in “The Good Nurse.” (Netflix will release the film in October, one month later the streamer will also debut a related documentary, “Capturing the Killer Nurse,” which may have further insights to offer.) That’s no knock against the film, which quite boldly doesn’t try to tie anything up in a neat package, mostly because a) that’s how it was in real life, as Cullen has still never attempted to explain his actions and b) it speaks to the reserved nature of Lindholm’s latest. It may leave some audience members cold, but it should really leave them chilled to the bone.
“The Good Nurse” premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. Netflix will release the film in select theaters on Friday, October 19 and streaming on Friday, October 26.
Jessica Chastain Facts: 32 Things You Might Know About This Stunning and Talented Actress
With her vibrant red hair and enchanting features, Jessica Chastain epitomizes the beauty of classic actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood. But Chastain is more than a striking beauty, as she has proven time and time again. Known for her versatility as an actress, she can steal the screen in both mainstream movies and indie projects, such as her upcoming remake of Ingmar Bergman’s arthouse classic Scenes From A Marriage.
Although she often gets mistaken for the equally beautiful and talented Bryce Dallas Howard, Chastain is a star in her own right, and she is not afraid of pushing herself as an actress in order to hone her craft. In addition to acting, she enjoys many other pursuits.
So here are the 10 most interesting facts about Jessica Chastain, including her unconventional childhood, her personal convictions, and a rather surprising skill that the dainty star boasts.
Her Natural Hair Color Will Surprise You
In an industry where women are constantly pressured to alter their physical appearance, and particularly their hair color, it may be surprising to learn that Chastain’s fiery hair is indeed her natural hair color. Inexplicably, red hair has often been subjected to negative connotations, so Chastain embracing her gorgeous natural hair is not only empowering, but inspiring for other women who may be struggling with self-image.
9 She Dropped Out Of High School
Despite her intellect, Chastain realized that school wasn’t for her and she subsequently left without graduating. Although she dropped out of school, she was accepted into the prestigious Julliard via a scholarship from Robin Williams. In a Facebook post, she praised the late, much-loved comic for changing her life: ‘Through a scholarship, he made it possible for me to graduate college. His generous spirit will forever inspire me to support others as he supported me.’ Clearly, dropping out of high school was no barrier to her success and Chastain is proof that we should never give up on our dreams.
8 The Heart-breaking Story Behind Her Rescue Dog
A dedicated animal lover, Chastain is an advocate of the ‘adopt don’t shop’ movement, which encourages prospective pet owners to eschew breeders and instead adopt their furry friends from rescue shelters. Chastain’s adorable dog Chaplin features all over her Instagram and Twitter and it is evident that he is living a wonderful life full of warmth and love. But life wasn’t always so rosy for little Chaplin. In an interview with Graham Norton, Chastain explained that Chaplin was struck by a car and subsequently had his leg amputated. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before the actress found him in an animal shelter and adopted the precious three-legged pup.
7 Her Dad Was A Rock Musician
Chastain’s parents were just kids when they had her: mom Jerri was 16 and dad Michael Monasterio was 20. When Chastain was a child, Monasterio left and pursued his dream of becoming a rock star, leaving Chastain’s mom to raise her and younger sister Juliet on her own. Meanwhile, Monasterio found success performing with numerous rock bands. Consequently, Chastain refuses to talk about her father, who passed away in 2013 aged 55.
6 She Is A Committed Vegan
Previously a pescatarian, Chastain adopted veganism in 2007. She credits her plant-based diet with invigorating her after experiencing a period of lethargy and malaise, which she believes was caused by consuming cheese.
Talking to W Magazine, she explained, ‘immediately I just had more energy than I’ve ever had in my life.’ In addition to following a meat and dairy-free diet, she only buys cruelty-free makeup products. She is also an investor in the Beyond Meat company.
5 Her Husband Has Noble Lineage
In 2017, Chastain married her boyfriend of five years, Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo. A count, he is a descendant of an historic Italian noble family that dates as far back as 973. The stylish aristocrat works in the fashion industry and has had prominent roles within Armani and Moncler. The couple has one child together, daughter Giulietta, born in 2018.
4 This Is The Film That She Will Never Watch Again
A decade ago, Chastain amazed audiences with her incredible performance in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life alongside Brad Pitt. Despite her mesmerizing performance, Chastain has said that she will never watch the film again, as she finds it too painful. ‘I haven’t been able to watch it since it came out because it’s so emotional for me’, she told The Huffington Post, adding, ‘I’m heartsick for it.’
3 She Is BFFS With A Fellow A-lister
Considering the competitive nature of Hollywood, it is always uplifting to hear of actresses forming close bonds with one another. Since starring alongside each other in 2011’s The Help, Chastain and Octavia Spencer have been inseparable friends. In the ultimate act of friendship, Chastain fought for equal pay for her friend after discovering that, as a woman of color, Spencer had been earning far less than her white peers.
At a Sundance film panel, Spencer recalled a conversation with Chastain: ‘She said, ‘Of course, and you and I are going to be tied together. We’re gonna be favored nations, and we’re gonna make the same thing’… Fast-forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for.’
2 She Learnt One Of The Most Aggressive Martial Arts
At 5’3″ and with a slender build, Chastain looks rather graceful and unimposing. So it is quite the revelation that the petite actress mastered the art of Krav Maga for her role in The Debt. Originating in the Israeli Defense Forces, Krav Maga is one of the most gruelling self-defense techniques, with the emphasis on striking one’s opponent to the point of incapacitation. Chastain was trained by LA-based instructor Roy Elghanayan, who amply prepared her for the demanding role. Evidently, Chastain is a courageous woman who has defied people’s expectations.
1 She Was Bullied For Her Red Hair, But Had The Best Response For Her Tormentors
It may be hard to fathom, but the stunning redhead was constantly victimized at school. ‘I was told every day at school that I was ugly’, she told Glamour. She elaborated on the bullying during an interview with Graham Norton, explaining that kids taunted her with the pejorative ‘carrot-top’. The actress had the last laugh, however, with the best comeback: ‘carrot tops are green!’