Romantic obsession meets Munchausen syndrome in “The Good Doctor.” As the title character, whose derangement builds slow and steady, like an IV drip, Orlando Bloom is low-key bordering on recessive, in sync with the cool psychological thriller and its undercurrent of black comedy.
Targeting age-old English class consciousness, not contemporary American healthcare woes, the movie is a shrewd commentary on careerism and status.
With his boyish haircut and anxious air, Bloom’s Martin Blake, a Brit just beginning his medical residency in Southern California, has yet to develop the swagger of fellow resident Dan (Troy Garity).
Expecting to be treated with reverence, he chafes at the presumptuousness of an orderly (Michael Peña) and the backtalk of a tough nurse (Taraji P. Henson). In the blue-white interiors of the hospital and Blake’s barely furnished apartment, director Lance Daly (“Kisses”) emphasizes the protagonist’s solitude and alienation.
A pretty teen patient (Riley Keough) and her kidney infection provide just the opportunity the newbie doc seeks. Beneath his solicitousness and her gratitude, a mutual pathology takes hold, evident to anyone who might overhear their purred dialogue (“You’ll get better soon.” “Do I have to?”).
Some of the underplaying falls flat, but for the most part the tone works. John Enbom’s slow-burn script avoids overloading the action with backstory or psychologizing, and Bloom strikes the right balance of diffidence, panic and blank-itude to keep things creepily on edge.
Supporting performances are strong, with Rob Morrow especially convincing as a supervising physician, and J.K. Simmons making the most of a brief turn.
“The Good Doctor.” MPAA rating. PG-13 for thematic material, disturbing situations and some crude sexual content. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. At Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood.