Film: ‘The Good Doctor’ (2012)

Magnolia Pictures

For many people, bedside manner plays a big role in assessing how “good” a physician is. In “The Good Doctor,” Martin Blake (Orlando Bloom), a British doctor doing a residency in the U.S., has an inspired connection with his patient Diane (Riley Keough) that’s off-the-charts impressive: caring, calming and sweetly personal. But we’ve previously seen Blake behave indifferently towards a patient, prescribe an ill-advised medicine and then blame a nurse for the consequences. So the doc’s unusual responsiveness towards Diane – and his inability to keep Saturnine boundaries with her – become suspect.

The movie is a grimly appealing character study of a medical professional who seriously needs to be told, “Physician, heal thyself.” Trouble is, Blake’s supervisor Dr. Waylans (Rob Morrow) takes all the quickly mounting puzzles surrounding Diane’s treatment too much in stride, and accepts Blake’s seeming diligence in covering all bases. The audience, on the other hand, has been privy to Blake’s wiliness – ingratiating himself with Diane’s family, replacing her medication, changing up bacterial samples, stealing a picture of her and dealing with an equally conniving orderly – all along.

What’s behind Blake’s blank-slate demeanor, which becomes more pronounced as the film progresses? There are remarkably few clues. One is a tidbit from his childhood. A friend of his mother’s was a doctor and got respect, a deeply Saturnine need. Blake silently, but desperately, now wants that for himself, and reaching the pinnacle of the career ladder is one way to get it.

Unfortunately, with Saturn-fueled strategies, the end often justifies the means – in this case, Blake’s decision to cross ethical boundaries to play God and keep Diane as a trophy-patient constant in his life. It’s the exploration of the definition of “good” – moral inner light vs. the external good of efficiency – that’s the heart of the movie.

Rating: ♄ (Saturn)

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