The Movie Waffler Tribeca 2022 Review - ROUNDING | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca 2022 Review - ROUNDING

rounding review
A young physician becomes increasingly psychologically damaged following a patient's death.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Alex Thompson

Starring: Namir Smallwood, Sidney Flanigan, Michael Potts, Max Lipchitz, David Cromer, Cheryl Lynn Bruce

Hospitals have long been a favoured setting for horror movies and thrillers, and it serves as an eerie backdrop for Saint Frances director Alex Thompson's second feature Rounding. The movie takes its title from the term given to the process of doctors doing the rounds of patients in their care. One patient in the care of our young lead, resident physician James (Namir Smallwood), passes away during what may or may not have been a case of euthanasia. No blame is placed at James' feet by the hospital authorities, who want him to get straight back to work, but the incident leaves the young doctor psychologically damaged.

Transferring to a rural hospital, James brings his demons along with him as he attempts to make a fresh break. He suffers from extreme insomnia, leading to hallucinations in which he sees fanged monsters. His internal trauma becomes external when he twists his ankle and refuses to have it seen to, dragging it along like an anchor.

When James encounters Helen (Sidney Flanigan), a young woman repeatedly admitted for lung issues that the hospital staff believe are simply in her head, he begins to take a personal interest in her case. James suspects that Helen's domineering mother (Rebecca Spence) may have convinced her daughter that she's suffering from non-existent issues. When Helen is assigned for a lung transplant, James goes full Michael Douglas in Coma, attempting to scupper the operation.

rounding review

Thompson wrote his script with his brother Christopher, who is actually a physician himself, and their doctor father acted as a consultant on their script. The result is a movie that plays like one of the more authentic representations of a hospital that we've seen on screen. Aside from the implausibly dim lighting (how can any of the doctors see what they're doing?), there's a remarkable verisimilitude here and the script never dumbs down terms to make things easier for the viewer. The characters here speak like doctors, creating the unsettling effect of being stuck in a bed while people discuss your condition in a language you don't understand.

While their characters are written in colourblind fashion, having James and his superior Dr. Harrison (Michael Potts) played by African-American actors adds an extra element to the latter's frustration at the former's refusal to play along by the rules. You can't help but feel that Harrison has gotten to his position by keeping his head down and not asking any questions, something James resolutely refuses to do.

In his movie debut, Smallwood, previously a jobbing TV actor, is quite the find. As a leading man we feel like he's a star we've known for several years. As the paranoid and taciturn James, he displays a sort of anti-charisma, a man who wishes he could be left alone to face his demons without constantly being asked if he's okay by people who really just want him to get back to work. He's somewhat let down however by a film that resorts to "elevated horror" gimmicks to portray his psychological state. Rather than simply letting his leading man use his acting skills, Thompson throws in hallucinations and a needless bit of body horror, which momentarily take us out of what is really a grounded human drama.

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