By Ray Bennett
BERLIN – Modern medicine and old-fashioned superstition clash in Oskar Santos’ well-constructed medical drama “For the Good of Others” about a doctor who discovers that he holds the power to heal in his hands. But only those with a strong ability to suspend disbelief will find it credible.
Good performances by an attractive cast led by Eduado Noriega, a slick depiction of a big-city emergency room, and a surreal element that many might enjoy should take the film successfully to Spanish-language markets and international art houses.
With a slightly different approach, the film could have been a sharp satire on the way some doctors come to believe they are God but Santos and screenwriter Daniel Sanchez Arevalo play this particular inexplicable power of healing straight down the middle.
Noriega plays a pain expert who is dedicated but detached and in danger of losing his wife (Cristina Plazas) and daughter (Clara Lago) because he devotes all his time to his work. His days are filled with people at various stages of terminal illness with most of them enduring immense suffering whether physical, emotional or mental.
The thoroughly professional, if nightmarish, scene of doctors, nurses, patients, blood, instruments and screaming becomes skewed when the lover of one his patients fires a gun at him before killing himself but there is no bullet wound on the doctor.
When patients start to go into remission and emerge from comas, Diego comes to believe that he can now heal the sick with the touch of his hands. Superstitions, however, tend to come with conditions and he discovers that his gift comes at an enormous cost.
To his credit, Santos does not milk the supernatural elements and make the film overly melodramatic. The turns of event are treated matter-of-factly as Diego becomes involved with the widow of the man who shot him, Isabel (Belen Rueda from “The Sea Inside”) and comes to grips with his dilemma.
Noriega makes a handsome and persuasive leading man, playing the doctor’s scenes of anguish with conviction but also showing how his vanity is tickled by his sudden gift.
Venue: Berlin International Film Festival; Panorama; Production companies: MOD Producciones, Himenoptero, Telecinco Cinema; Cast: Eduardo Noriega, Belen Rueda, Angie Cepeda, Cristina Plazas, Clara Lago, Marcel Borras, Carlos Leal; Director: Oskar Santos; Screenwriter: Daniel Sanchez Arevalo; Producers: Fernando Bovaira, Alejandro Amenabar, Alvaro Augustin; Director of photography: Josu Inchaustegui; Production designer: Isabel Vinuales; Music: Fernando Velazquez; Costume designer: Tatiana Hernandez; Editor: Carlos Agullo; No rating, 102 minutes.
This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.