Irish director Lance Daly, who last helmed the exquisite, magical Kisses, brings the same stark, dreamy palette to this decidedly different tale about a medical resident overwhelmed by his newfound responsibility and power. The premise of The Good Doctor, a phrase/theme reiterated ad nauseam throughout the script, is disturbing (and purposely so), but unfortunately too hard to swallow to elicit the sympathetic response the filmmakers are going for. Reactions instead range from disbelief to disgust.
Orlando Bloom stars as Dr. Martin Blake, a British doctor with a dowdy haircut just arrived at a Los Angeles-area hospital with an obsessive eye toward a prestigious infectious diseases fellowship. His goal is jeopardized, however, by a Spanish-speaking patient with a penicillin allergy and a nurse with a chip on her shoulder (Taraji P. Henson)—due, perhaps, to his attitude that he’s too important for tasks like drawing blood. When teenage patient Diane (Elvis’ granddaughter, Riley Keough) presents with a kidney disorder, he sees an opportunity to make a name for himself and achieve what he thought came automatically with a medical license: respect.
Red flags rise right away. Diane’s father invites Martin over for dinner to thank him for treating her, and although Diane herself has chosen to go out for the evening, the rest of her family fawns over him. Whether or not accepting such an invitation is expressly unethical is unclear, but it certainly feels inappropriate given the intimate close-ups in which Martin’s hospital examinations of Diane are filmed. However, presented the opportunity, Martin can’t help himself, and he’s soon going out of his way to ensure he sees Diane again.
The leap from pilfering a photo from Diane’s bedroom to tampering with her medication happens way too fast, and it just escalates from there to the point that he’s taking unnecessary and eventually ludicrous risks. That he’s delusional about what exactly is going on between him and Diane—she flirts with Martin, yes, but she’s clearly not serious—only exacerbates the situation and the audience’s frustration.
What happens in the aftermath of Martin’s actions is the most unexpected, interesting and unnerving aspect of the film. It’s too bad that the events leading up to it are so ridiculous that they undermine what’s otherwise a powerfully disquieting denouement.