The Good Nurse (2022) Netflix: People have grown obsessed with movies that are based on true crime stories. The availability of content on Netflix and the idea of being involved in the investigative process of a crime has made it incredibly intriguing for the audience to consume content that caters to this genre.
More recently, good thriller films or suspense dramas are breaking the stereotype by showing the humane side of a criminal’s mind. However, no matter how hideous the crimes are, there is no particular reason why certain criminals commit such crimes.
Netflix’s The Good Nurse, based on a bone-chilling true story, stars Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne as two nurses working a night shift in Parksfield Memorial Hospital in New Jersey – one of the most esteemed healthcare establishments that side of the state. Based on the 2013 actual crime book by the same name written by Charles Graeber, The Good Nurse is directed by Tobias Lindholm and written by Krysty Wilson-Cairns and features an outstanding performance by both the lead actors who have more than a couple of shots that showcase intense character moments – something that is frankly absent from mainstream serial killer attractions.
In the following article, I explain the plot of the film detailing the most important sequences, along with an explanation of the chilling scene that takes place towards the end of the film. Spoiler alert, kindly read at your discretion.
The Good Nurse (2022) Netflix Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain) is a single mother of two beautiful daughters. She is a nurse at the Parksfield Memorial Hospital in New Jersey. While she juggles her life as a dutiful and one of the most preferred night nurses, Amy also has to deal with her falling health issues. While attending to one of her patients, she had an episode of a heightened panic attack and breathlessness.
When Amy gets herself checked from another hospital, we learn that she has a considerable blood mass surrounding her heart, making her a priority on the heart transplant list. However, she cannot afford to go for the surgery given her financial conditions, and since she hasn’t completed a year at Parksfield, she is not yet eligible for health insurance.
Nonetheless, Amy puts a smile on her face while handing out two separate credit cards to split her doctor consultation and health reports. With only four months to get a confirmed position at the hospital, Amy continues to brave the night duties at work and being a doting mother to her young kids.
Amid her hectic life, Charles ‘Charlie’ Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) comes as a blessing into her life as he gets appointed as Amy’s companion in the night duty calls at the hospital. He comes in with great experience in the field and quickly blends in, learning and performing his duties diligently.
Charles has a peculiar but calm demeanor that works for Amy as she gets comfortable with him working around the night shifts. While she guides him through the do’s and the don’ts’ of the daily routine, Charlie, on the other hand, helps take some load off her as she gets some time to breathe from her hectic routine.
One day, Charlie sees Amy struggling to breathe and vulnerable behind the closed curtain of a hospital ward. While gently patting her back, he tells her to take long, deep breaths so she can control her abnormal heartbeats. Once Amy regains her breath, she tells him that she has Cardiomyopathy – blood blisters on her heart. She tells him that he cannot share this information with anyone – otherwise, she will get fired. Charlie promises her that he won’t tell anyone and will help her stick around for the next four months so she can avail herself of the health insurance she is working so hard for.
Charlie and Amy find a friend in each other as they continue to micromanage their busy lives at work. Charlie also helps Amy operate her life with more power, as he takes care of her kids – such as learning lines of the play Amy’s daughter wants to audition for. Having Charlie in her life makes things easier for Amy.
However, good things can only go on till a point. One day, when Amy begins her day at work, she learns that one of her doting patients suddenly passed away for an unknown reason. Unable to process the sudden death, she questions her superiors with no avail of the actual reason or nature of death.
Leaving behind Charlie to clean and dress the deceased patient, Amy goes away to comfort the widowed husband. At this point, the film makes a point we narrow down our attention to the peculiar behavior of Charles – looking straight down coldly at the closed eyes of the dead body.
7 Weeks later we see two detectives drive into Parksfield to comprehend the nature of the death at the hospital that just doesn’t conclude to ‘unknown reasons.’ As officers Baldwin (Nnamdi Asomugha) and Bruan (Noah Emmerich) sit down with the hospital’s board panel, they figure out that things are a bit more complicated than the members think.
Linda Garren (Kim Dickens), the hospital’s supervisor, suggests that after running an internal investigation on the cause of death, she believes it would be wise to run through the information with the police, so they do things systematically.
The conversation with the board members and the hospital’s lead supervisor makes the officers suspicious of internal politics – covering something big brewing within the four walls. They request a copy of the internal investigation so that they can find out something more substantial that might lead them somewhere.
Simultaneously, Linda and her coworker hold a seminar to make the hospital’s employees aware of the situation they are currently dealing with. She informs everyone that the police are also involved in the event to understand the patient’s sudden death in the ICU.
In the meantime, Officer Baldwin and Braun investigate the situation. On their way, while looking into details, they discover that Charles Cullen has a police record where he is charged with trespassing and harassment in 1995. His file is also categorized with a post-it note ‘digoxin’ – a lethal medicine that can kill someone.
On the other hand, the hospital’s attorney, Mr. Beatie, makes sure that there is a hospital representative with every employee for interrogation. Since the officers do not have the body of the deceased patient to investigate further, they cannot talk specifically about medications, which makes things challenging for them. However, a golden opportunity comes at the time of questioning Amy Loughren when Linda goes out to attend to some business briefly.
Seeing they have a small window to discuss the reports of Amy’s patient Ana, they quickly share the information with her to understand if there are any discrepancies in her blood report. Amy glances at the report and promptly points out that a dose of insulin seems to have been injected into her body.
Once Linda comes in, the officers in the room change the conversation to learning more about Charles Cullen. However, Amy is baffled and questions why they are pointing allegations toward her friend, who, according to her is one of the best nurses she has ever worked with.
Next, we see Amy and the other nurses assisting doctors, trying to revive a patient. However, it is too late to bring the person back to life. While Amy tries to catch up on her breath after the exhausting process, Charles quickly punches in to take a pill from the inventory machine that might make her feel better.
She then warns him that if someone finds out that he steals medicines, he might get fired. However, he reassures her that nobody will get to know because the hospital’s inventory system – PYXIS, has a fault where, if the nurse punching in their code cancels a request late enough, it still opens up the drawer by default.
After returning from the doctor’s appointment, Amy shares with Charlie that she has a rather complicated journey ahead. Despite feeling lost and bogged down by the disappointing news of not getting any better health-wise, Amy is also confused about how she will break the news to her girls and how she will manage professionally and financially.
However, Charlie stands strong next to her, continuing to be the good friend she needs at this point in her life. He motivates her and offers his help by whatever means possible, so that she can continue working for the next two months to get health insurance – a necessity in her life right now.
At the same time, the officers continue to find more details about Charlie from other district hospitals. However, the establishments would only reveal details that don’t help the officers. Meanwhile, they receive the copy of the investigation they earlier requested from the Parksfield hospital.
Even though the investigation report is only two pages long, it is evident that it is impossible to summarize seven-week of the scrutiny of the hospital’s runaround. It makes the officers in charge speculative and more attentive to finding out the absolute truth of the incidents that are even more frequent and visible to them now.
Agitated to see no one coming forward and revealing any new details, Officer Baldwin decides to meet Linda in her office. He requests pages 1-6 of the investigation report she had couriered to him earlier. However, as suspected, she tries to divert the conversation and asks the officer to reschedule the meeting with her.
Officer Baldwin loses his calm as he doesn’t want to have ‘no’ for an answer and warns her that if she withholds any investigative evidence, there will be consequences. Later, when Baldwin discusses the case with his partner, Officer Braun, their boss comes and tells them angrily that because of the crass behavior, the two officers are now banned from the Parksfield property.
Left with no option to proceed further in the case, the two turn to Amy for help. However, she is clueless about what is happening right under her nose in the hospital. Once she learns about the case, she pays more attention to her new friend’s whereabouts during his shift.
In the meantime, Amy had lost yet another dear patient of hers, making her take a moral stand. Being a nurse, she took an oath to save other people’s lives, and her kind personality makes her do the right thing and help the police officers get to Charlie.
How did Charles ‘Charlie’ Cullen kill the patients?
While the film takes place in 2003, we slowly get to know the history of Charlie Cullen, which dates back almost five years. Amy decides to find out more about Charlie on her own, so she meets up with one of her old colleagues, Lori (Maria Dizzia). Lori happened to work with Charlie, and there was a rumor back then that he was responsible for numerous hospital deaths (that he OD’d his patients). It was a rumor that he pinprick the saline bags kept in the inventory room, which were then used on patients in critical conditions.
Although nobody charged any allegations against Charlie Cullen, Lori tells Amy that during his tenure at the hospital, there used to be two or three code blues every night (an emergency code used for cardiopulmonary arrest or life-threatening emergencies in the hospitals). However, once he stopped working at that hospital, code blue only went out probably once a month.
After learning this dangerous information, Amy rushes straight to the storage room at the hospital where the saline bags are usually stored. She hastily checks for pinpricks in the bags until she finds one. Shocked to discover this horrifying truth, she faints in the corridors of the hospital ward. Later, she finds out that Charlie is by her side while she is lying on the bed in an emergency room in the hospital.
Knowing the truth about Charlie, Amy is unsure whether she would like to continue seeing him. Even though he is always accommodating and around her like a pillar, the truth about him makes Amy feel unsafe and scared.
Discharging herself on AMA (against medical advice), Amy wants to rush back home to her children. However, Charlie is still indifferent to her despite Amy’s erratic behavior towards her.
He takes her home and suggests he can help her take care of the kids and continue taking her load off at work, but Amy’s full attention is on keeping a safe distance from Charlie. Next, we see Amy at the police station in front of the two officers who are tirelessly working on collecting enough evidence to arrest Charlie.
She shares with them that Charlie injects the insulin into the bags and because it enters the bloodstream slowly, it could take hours or even a day to kill someone. Since any clear liquid wouldn’t be detected easily, he could also use another lethal medicine – Digoxin, in order to kill people.
Since the officers do not have any physical report on the inventory details, Amy agrees to pull out Charlie’s PYXIS report from the machine herself as this is one of the proofs that might help them win the situation. However, they need a physical body of a deceased person to prove that the said substances were present in their body and that Charlie used insulin and Digoxin to kill his patients.
Realizing that the truth about Charlie needs to come out systematically, Amy and the two officers decide to meet the husband of her recently deceased patient Kelly Anderson. After convincing Tom, the officers make arrangements to dig his dead wife’s grave so they can conduct a detailed autopsy and find evidence that would be critical at this point.
On the other hand, Amy keeps a close eye on Charlie, and whenever she sees him changing the saline bags, she immediately rushes after he leaves the ward and changes the saline bags to avoid any code blue. She also takes printouts of all the withdrawn medicine reports under Charlie’s name from her PYXIS account and submits the same to the officers to have enough evidence against him. However, it isn’t enough. The officers need a confession or someone to charge allegations against him, in order to arrest or put him under police custody.
In the meantime, Linda and the hospital’s attorney decide to let go of Charlie since there was a discrepancy in the dates he mentioned about the tenure in his work history with the other hospitals. However, hospital authorities believe that he may be involved in overdosing on his patients, so it would be better to let go of him, so as to avoid suspicion against the hospital’s code of conduct, thereby hampering or tarnishing their reputations.
The prosecutor from the district officer side shares the news with the police, but they are not satisfied to know this information. Simply firing him based on discrepancies in Charlie’s paperwork doesn’t suffice. Before working at Parksfield, Charlie also worked with nine different hospitals, and it has been the case with all of them. None of the hospitals want to charge him or file any reports to avoid accountability for this horrific act. It only leads to Charlie being a free man and continuing with his life, going about killing patients.
The Good Nurse Movie Ending, Explained:
Why did Charlie Cullen kill patients?
After getting fired from Parksfield, Charlie finds solace at Amy’s house with the girls. Amy is frightened of Charlie but, without letting her emotions reveal anything, very gently and calmly deals with Charlie. She asks him to give her some time with the girls so that she can recover from everything she has been through recently. He understands the position Amy is in at the moment and politely leaves.
Assuming that Amy might not be aware he was fired from the hospital, Charlie states he wanted to spend time with them to avoid getting sad. Although Charlie tells her that despite how the situation is treating them, it will only get better from here. He also shares that he would look for new jobs in other hospitals. Even though Amy is not pleased to hear this from him, she reassures him that he will get by perfectly fine.
The following day, Amy calls Charlie from the police office as instructed by the officers. Charlie, in the meantime, has no clue that these people have been plotting ways to catch him. Amy and Charlie decide to meet for lunch on a Saturday and the day arrives when the two meet. The two officers are stationed right across the restaurant where Amy and Charlie are meeting in, and we understand that she is wearing a recorder so that the officers can listen to the conversation that requires Amy to get Charlie to confess to his crimes.
After talking about their respective days and whereabouts, Amy tells Charlie she misses him at work. However, Charlie is not keen on talking about Parksfield. Amy pushes him a little to talk more, but he gets quiet, sensing something off about the entire conversation. When Amy tries to egg him more, he relents and leaves for the new job he obtained down south in Pennsylvania.
As soon as he leaves, the officers rush to Amy to comfort her from the stressful situation. At the same time, Officer Braun calls the district office of Pennsylvania to arrest Charlie who is on his way to the state. Later, we see Charlie preparing himself for his interview while driving. He notices a police car chasing him before he is arrested.
In one of the scenes during interrogation, Charlie starts to behave erratically, making it intense and challenging for the officers to make him confess. Since he can be detained only for 48 hours (when he refuses to divulge why he killed his patients), the officer would have to set him free. Amy knows this and understands that he would only share things if she tried to coerce him – maybe he will start telling her why he did it.
When she meets him in the jail, she notices Charlie sitting in the corner in the cold handcuffs to the desk. Amy tells the officer to free his hands and offers Charlie her jacket. She apologizes for everything and tells him that she is grateful to him for always standing next to him on her difficult days.
Charlie continues to state that he can’t share why he killed his patients, but Amy makes sure he understands that she is just asking him to tell the truth and nothing else. When she pushes him, Charlie tells her he was simply trying to help the patients. She further requests the names of all the people he killed; even though he doesn’t remember all of them, he comes up with a few names.
In the end, it seems that Charlie had a traumatic childhood where no one was kind to him or always dominated him. Besides this, his wife also left him, not allowing him to meet his two daughters as frequently as he would want to. Maybe because of his complex personality and horrible truth, the agonizing experience developed a sense of dominance in Charlie. Could killing his patients in such a way be his way of showing power?
Even though the film tries to show a humane side of a criminal, it still doesn’t justify his crimes. No one in any power position has the right to kill a person. The film ends with Charlie Cullen getting 18 consecutive life sentences in New Jersey, with him not being eligible for parole until 2403. On the other hand, Amy gets the heart surgery she needed and currently lives with her daughters in Florida.