Plausibility is a nebulous concept at the best of times. Yet, whatever the context – from the ordinary and every day, to the bizarre and otherworldly – cinema strives always to convince; to make its audience believe what they are experiencing is plausible.
Dream sequences notwithstanding, Lance Daly‘s The Good Doctor doesn’t stray too far from the ordinary. Well, assuming you can consider a Doctor manipulating patients’ medication and test results in order to keep them under their care as being ‘ordinary’. But Daly’s film soon finds itself struggling. And the crux of this struggle is actually our not-so-good Doctor himself, Dr. Martin Blake (Bloom) – and the implausibility of Bloom playing such a morally reprehensible character.
The storyline in The Good Doctor might not be ‘in a galaxy far, far away’, but it is farfetched. And Bloom is a square peg in a red cross-shaped hole – failing to convince as someone capable of carrying out such immoral actions (even in the name of love); and failing still further to convince as someone capable of remaining so calm and impassive under the stethoscope. Especially once the dark, malignant skeletons begin to swell and threaten to burst their way out of the proverbial closet.
It’s a shame, because The Good Doctor is not without its virtues. Keough (as Blake’s would-be lover Diane Nixon) drips with delicate, hypnotic charisma in every frame she occupies. We may never understand or believe the method of Blake’s madness, but it is never difficult to understand why he becomes so infatuated by her. Likewise, while perhaps never fully consummated, Daly experiments with several striking motifs throughout the film. Even before his ethics begin to crumble and turn to dust, Blake appears constantly starved of sleep – an irregularity that allows for endless looping shots of Blake sleeping fully-dressed in his porcelain-white, cell of an apartment; bleary-eyed drives to the hospital; and abrupt awakenings by digital alarm clocks.
For all the intrigue, however, these motifs rarely come together to form anything particularly substantial. And this is emblematic of the film as a whole. At its best, the atmosphere of Daly’s film captivates and intrigues in almost equal measure. But as the film progresses, it soon becomes apparent that The Good Doctor has precious little idea what to do with your attention once it has it.
While The Good Doctor can leave the premises without needing a full body bag, it can’t really be waved away with an unequivocally clean bill of health, either. Daly’s film is as uneven as Blake’s motives – though ultimately offers enough of a tense, enigmatic ambience to avoid flatlining completely. Both sides of the bizarre, yin-yang-like finale disappoint by failing to arrive at a truly satisfying conclusion. But The Good Doctor‘s peculiar, listless drama will keep you engaged until you get there. It’s just a shame Bloom wilts under the spotlight.