The Good Doctor Reviews
I've provided a "tl;dr" (too long; didn't read) review for those who prefer concise, short reviews. The second extended one examines how Netflix's poor plot description has been detrimental to this film's rating while also explaining in depth why this film got a rating of 4.
This is a chilling tale about obsession that is very subdued in its presentation. It also provides a commentary on the fragility of the doctor-patient relationship and how medical power can be abused. There are a lot of people who found this film to be slow-moving, so I can't stress enough that this is a subdued film. It's focused on the obsession of this doctor, and then the steps he'll take to cover it up. I also found the ending to be particularly chilling, even though others said it was too abrupt. Some even said it had no ending, which couldn't be more wrong. In fact, the ending shows he's achieved the respect and reputation he wanted; he finally looks like a doctor. His response to a child when performing a routine blood draw also seems to be a summary of his unethical and illegal actions while also foreshadowing his future. If you are expecting a thriller or a suspenseful movie, this is not it. But if you are looking for a chilling drama starring a popular actor in a role he doesn't normally play, this would be a good movie to watch.
On Netflix, this movie has a score of 2.9 out of 5 stars, which was completely baffling to me. So I decided to read through the reviews with low ratings, and what I found was a classic case of Netflix writing a misleading plot summary. Occasionally, descriptions won't match the plot accurately enough, which negatively affects the viewer's interpretation of the film and impacts their opinion of the site they're watching it on. Now I'm a huge fan of Netflix. I love being a member, and I think they have a great selection of popular and obscure films. That being said, I do think the plot descriptions can sometimes be poorly written and inaccurate.
Here is Netflix's description of the movie: "Martin Blake, a young doctor setting out to establish his reputation, falls into an illicit romance with teenage patient Diane. When a colleague learns of the forbidden relationship, he uses the information to blackmail Dr. Blake for drugs."
In the excerpt above, I have underlined what is factual. The main thing that's inaccurate is the description of the interaction between the doctor and his patient. Instead, it should read, "... develops an obsession with the flirtatious teenage patient Diane." There was no illicit romance nor was there a forbidden relationship. He develops an unhealthy obsession with this teenager because she's the first person at this new hospital to show him any respect. They do begin to develop some chemistry as he cares for her, but at no time does this interaction come to enough fruition to be classified as a real romance.
It's also factual that Dr. Blake gets blackmailed for drugs, but saying a "colleague learns of the forbidden relationship" is wrong. Forbidden relationship implies that these two have been acting on their flirtation and general attraction, but this doesn't happen. It would be more accurate if it read, "When a colleague finds Diane's journal containing entries about the young doctor, he uses the information to blackmail Dr. Blake for drugs." If the description was rewritten to focus more on the obsession rather than the non-existant romance, viewers would have a more favorable response because they'd be provided a more accurate expectation of the movie.
So a number of these reviews mentioned the misleading plot summary. But I wonder if any of these reviewers watched the trailer for this film or just watched it based off the description on Netflix. The trailer shows perfectly that this is about a doctor's obsession with a patient, the steps he'll take to keep her hospitalized, and the orderly that tries to blackmail him. It's clear that there's no romance, just fleeting moments of flirtation.
Other reviewers complained about the progression of the plot, stating that it was too slow and boring. The trailer does make the film appear more intense than it is, as does the description. It's even marked as suspenseful in Netflix's movie details and as a thriller on IMDB. To be honest, this movie is not very thrilling or suspenseful. A better word to describe it would be "chilling", but that's not a term often used on movie sites, so they picked the best adjectives available.
However, IMDB also labels this film as a drama, and Netflix also calls it "understated". Those two descriptors are correct. If any reviewers complaining about the slow-moving plot had checked on IMDB or read more of the movie details on Netflix, they would've had a better idea of the pace of the movie. Most dramas can be very slow moving and mellow, as is this film. Understated is defined as being "presented or expressed in a subtle and effective way", which describes this movie's plot. It presents this character, a young under-appreciated doctor, explores the depths of his obsession, and shows it evolve at a natural pace.
Whenever a person plans to go see a movie at a theater, they'll generally do a little research. Maybe read a review, ask a friend, or watch a trailer. But this should be done for any movie a person watches, even films from Netflix or Redbox. I'm not saying to spend a lot of time looking up information but watching a trailer on YouTube or Trailer Addict wouldn't hurt. Even just taking a glimpse at IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes would be sufficient. And it will probably prevent an unpleasant viewing experience.
There were also a lot of people complaining about Orlando Bloom, either critiquing his performance or critiquing the filmmakers' choice to make him a homely, unlikeable character. I couldn't disagree more with both those opinions. First of all, there's nothing more impressive to me than a director transforming a popular, well-loved celebrity into someone unrecognizable or using their fame and public persona to provide contrast in a character. The Coen brothers continuously take big time actors and give them weird wardrobes, hairstyles and mannerisms to create something unique and interesting. In "Stardust" (not a Coen brothers film, just another example), Robert De Niro played Captain Shakespeare, a pacifist pirate that cross-dressed, and this revelation, which was intended to be comical, was even funnier because De Niro has had so many tough guy roles in his past. There are numerous examples of filmmakers picking actors for roles that we wouldn't expect and using their fame as a way to add to the character they're portraying. This film does that.
For this film, they used Bloom's natural charm to help make the character more sinister. There are a lot of people (mostly female) that find Bloom extremely attractive and charming. Most of us look at him and see Legolas or Will Turner, not a homely doctor with a superiority complex and a crush on a teenager. That's not him. It feels wrong, which is good! Our own perception of Bloom adds to the creep level of the character in this film because this character is the exact opposite of how Bloom is normally portrayed on the big screen.
The final major critique others had was that the film had no ending or that it was too abrupt. The only thing I didn't like was this eighties sitcom freeze frame right before it cut to black. I thought my internet had cut out.
But I loved the ending. It brought the story around full circle and was also chilling at a deeper level. In the beginning of the film, no one showed Dr. Blake the respect he craved, except that teenage patient. He didn't seem like a doctor at all. He was just a timid, easily rattled and rude newbie. No one started to take him seriously until things around him got worse.
Then at the end we're presented with this normal hospital scene we've seen a thousand times, but it's to show how his crimes have changed him. He's now finally acting like a real doctor. He moves through the hospital wing with confidence. The nurse that used belittle him now speaks to him with respect and asks for guidance with a patient. A child looks to him for comfort as he performs a routine procedure with ease. And a woman with panic in her voice calls to him, yelling, "Doctor!" But his obsession, the harm it brought and his lack of punishment is what gives him that confidence.
The exchange between the doctor and the child is what I found particularly chilling. He says, "I'm getting better all the time" in reference to the routine procedure he had trouble with before. But that also summarized his whole experience while foreshadowing the future. His first crime was messy and done in haste. As time went on, he got better, and his second one was planned a little more. And just when it seemed like he was going to be caught, he again improved, finding the confidence he needed to evade accusation. Now that he's committed two crimes and gotten away with it, he feels invincible, thus explaining his confidence surge. But I also feel he'll have no problem committing another crime in the future if it will have a positive outcome for him. He's done it already and will continue to improve with practice.
So I've talked very positively about this film and even defended it. Some may be wondering, "Well, why didn't you give it a five then?" For me, a rating of "5" means I'll watch it again, strongly recommend it to others and probably buy the DVD one day. "4" means I really liked it for specific reasons, might watch it again and recommend it, but it's not something I'd add to a list of films a person has to see. It also means that even though I think it's a good film, it still has its flaws.