Monday, 2 December 2013

The Good Doctor - film review

In real life,and in fiction, doctors have a disturbing track record when it comes to homicide. My own favourite medical murderer (or was he simply unlucky and much misunderstood?) is Dr Crippen, while the terrible crimes of Harold Shipman undoubtedly rank among the most chilling murders Britain has ever experienced. Detective novelists have often featured doctors as culprits (as I myself have done.) Accountants and even rascally lawyers seem to get off relatively lightly in comparison.

Why is this? One reason, perhaps, is the trust that we place in members of the medical profession, and the fear we have that in certain circumstances that trust might be betrayed - though I hasten to add that every single doctor I've ever met in person has struck me as decent and caring. This mix of trust and fear underpins a 2011 movie, The Good Doctor.

Orlando Bloom plays Martin Blake, a young and rather lonely British guy who has moved to the States to pursue a medical career. He treats a very pretty young woman, and is soon tempted into behaving appallingly in order to maintain his connection with her. She is played by Riley Keough, who is the grand-daughter of Elvis Presley, no less. Needless to say, things do not turn out as Blake had planned, and there's some uncomfortable watching in the hospital scenes for any hypochondriac.

The prime requirement of a story of psychological suspense, though, is that it must be psychologically convincing. The script simply doesn't tell us enough about Blake's personal history to make us empathise with or really understand him, and I felt this was a major flaw. As a result, the film frustrated me. It had the potential to be gripping, but eventually I became not only queasy but restless, and the final scenes struck me as artistically unsatisfactory. In fairness, I should add that The Good Doctor has had some positive reviews, but there is something cold about it that I am afraid I found rather unappealing.     

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