The Good Doctor
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The Good Doctor

Medicine has always been one of the most desirable professions since people began accumulating into groups. In tribal cultures, the medicine man held a degree of power and authority that approached the status of the chieftain. Then as heal depended on less on the knowledge of herbs and intercession with the gods and more on science, the position remained of paramount importance to the community. Being a doctor is a noble calling that also is quite lucrative and perennially at the apex of a mother’s first choice for a son-in-law. From an artistic standpoint, the doctor is among the most popular choices for a protagonist in all forms of entertainment particularly film and television. Typically, a man of medicine reflects society’s growing appreciation of the physician, but the independent filmmaker has the potential to explore the human being behind the calling. In the film ‘The Good Doctor,' the focus is centered on a young man in training to ascend to the coveted ‘M.D’ following his name. The film examines the inordinate degree of professional pressure and emotional strain that is inherent in garnering the degree necessary for the practice of medicine. Some people submit to the tendency to elevate doctors above the common throng, perhaps a holdover from the medicine/high priest origins when the healer was the conduit to the supernatural. ‘The Good Doctor’ provides the audience with a dramatic reminder that the physician is still a human being, a mortal man subject to the same desires, temptations and foibles as the rest of us. While the vast majority of doctors conduct themselves by the sacred trust afforded to them some are overwhelmed by the intimacy that is intrinsically part of their work. This film is another example of the independent movie’s ability to concentrate on the smaller story as far as the scope goes. It will probably not appeal to a large, mainstream audience clamoring for fast pace action. This is an emotionally driven story that dissects the inner workings of a medical student struggling to hold his desires in check as he prepares to accept the full responsibility of being a good doctor.

Martin Blake (Orlando Bloom) has just completed his medical school training, but before that shiny new degree, he has to go through the next phase of his education, residency. This is the hands-on part of his training, an apprenticeship where he accumulates the practical application of his new found knowledge. As is frequently the case Martin had to relocate to assume this position is moving to a hospital in Southern California. Superficially Martin has every advantage a young man could want. He is attractive and exceptionally charismatic, but ultimately he is insecure, a person that manifests but arrogance and need to lord his authority over others. This may have served him better in academia but in a real hospital setting the socio-political foundation was drastically different, and Martin was more like to alienate patients, peers, and superiors than charm them. The event that gives this story its impetus was a patient Martin encountered. Diane Nixon (Riley Keough) is a beautiful 18-year-old admitted for a kidney infection. She responds well to Martin giving his currently battered ego a much-needed boost. His infatuation with the young woman gains a component of desperation as she responds to the treatment moving closer to the point of being released. This is where person need and the Hippocratic Oath and Martin’s need to sustain his all-important self-esteem. Martin submits to his self-centered core persona and decides to keep Diane under his care.To achieve this selfish goal Martin does the unthinkable; he manipulates his beautiful patient’s treatment to prolong her stay. There are many cases of people manipulating medical treatment. Some doctors and nurses purposely bring hapless patients to the verge of the dead only to gain heroic stature by saving them; others fake symptoms to themselves or others to feed their addiction to the attention. Martin’s case might be different in motivation, but the fact that he is deleteriously modifying a patient’s treatment is illegal and inherently immoral as a betrayal of trust.

The plot device that Martin and Diane have formed a romantic bond does not excuse, the behavior, rather it actually, exasperates the situation. He is not only betraying the doctor-patient relationship he has undermined the love of a vulnerable girl by manipulating her feelings to his selfish benefit. Yes, he might have genuine feelings for Diane, but that only makes his purposeful inherence of her care increasingly heinous. With any case of betrayal and deception, the perpetrator is exceptionally susceptible to being discovered. His actions take a drastic plunge when Diane succumbs to the infection and dies. Martin didn’t realize young women are prone to document their emotional life and relationships. Diane kept a diary detailing her ‘romance’ with the handsome doctor. He not only was an older man, unlike the boys in her school, but he was also the ultimate catch, a physician. The journal, discovered by an orderly, Jimmy (Michael Peńa), who hatches a plot of his own. He blackmails Martin into providing a regular supply of drugs in return for his silence. This pushes the doctor into a quagmire of desperation; he places the drugs with a lethal, undetectable substance killing Jimmy. This finally brings the police to the hospital.

The difficulty fundamentally found in a story like this is the underlying unlikeable traits exhibited by the central character. The writer of the screenplay by John Enbom does a good job of ameliorating the effect by giving Martin some positive qualities such as intelligence and drive that are misdirected by circumstances he mishandled. This is a first feature length script for Enbom whose prior experience included dramatic television series like ‘Veronica Mars’ and a few episodes of the Sci-Fi cult classic, ‘’Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.' Also, Enbom gathered some off-beat humorous acumen writing for ‘Party Down.' There might have been some benefit had by expanding the introduction to elaborate on those qualities to lighten the horrible actions made by Martin. He was ruined by a cascading series of bad decisions, but ultimately Enbom avoids the cheap ploy of play the story in an apologetic fashion. Martin is acutely aware of his nature and the path it has taken him down. The director, Lance Daly has a few other movies unfed his belt and is carefully working on establishing himself in his profession. His eye for framing a scene is impeccable surrounding the characters with a setting that firmly works to create the context and circumstances. He paces the movie well although the same caveat applied to the script is -applicable in this aspect of the production. The character of Martin required a greater foundation and further elaboration to pull the story better together. It is helpful that Bloom is adept at playing a complicated role in the economy. The movie is gripping and deserves attention.

Posted 12/10/12            03/04/02/2017

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