Documentary Review: Now Streaming, Free, “The American Nurse”

Here’s a clever and righteous pitch from indie distributor Kino Lorber.

They have the rights to the touching and acclaimed 2014 documentary, “The American Nurse.” And as nurses are now on the front lines of America’s and the world’s struggle against COVID19, the studio is making the film available — streaming for free on their website.

Here’s the link.

Photographer Carolyn Jones is a cancer survivor who took on “The American Nurses Project” for a book, and then as a followup, took a film crew to visit five of the nurses she profiled for that book for this film.

“Who are the people who can do this incredibly intimate work?” the film wonders.

There’s Naomi Cross, labor and delivery nurse at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, a job with “so much bodily fluids and screaming” that never everybody is cut out for it, she jokes.

Her job? “Calm people (patient and spouse) and push through it!”

Jason Short is a home health RN in Paintsville, Kentucky, a mechanics’ son who got tired of disagreeing in the garage and took up another way of helping people. He looked at the human body as a car engine — “radiator hoses? That’s your bloodstream. Heart? That’s a water pump.”

Like Tanya, Jason has a touching and personal back-story about why he took up this calling.

Tanya Faust is a prison guard’s daughter who followed mom to Angola Prison in Louisiana. Mom served in the guard tower, but Tanya does nursing and supervises trusty’s who serve as nurse’s aids. A prison filled with lifers means she has to be, in essence, a hospice nurse. “I’m not here to judge them,” she says. “It’s just taking care of another human being.”

Brian McMillion got sold on the idea of becoming an Army medic watching a recruiting video in an Army Recruiting Center. He’s been in the bush, in combat zones, tending soldiers, bonding over their “shared suffering” and brings that home, doing outreach for homeless veterans.

And then there’s Sister Stephen, the Wisconsin nun who supervises a nursing home and helps run a therapy farm attached to it, where troubled youth in her corner of the state.

Her lifelong “soft spot for older people” and passion to “always live on a farm” brought her to her best destiny, where she helps care for alpacas, sheep, goats, pigs and cows, supervises teenager who bring lambs and other critters into the home where the elderly get to interact with them, and even strums on the autoharp at nursing home singalongs.

That’s the tone of the film, folksy people doing righteous work. We see Jason’s frank warnings to relatives about this dying house-bound patient or that one, see Naomi comforting and congratulating parents, witness Michael’s dedication to wounded warriors, hear Sister Stephen tell an aging lady who has become her friend, “If Jesus is calling you, to you.”

That’s the message of the movie, never clearer than when Tanya Faust is showing tenderness to convicted murderers — compassion is contagious.

Kudos to Kino Lorber for letting people see it for free at a time when not everyone is in a position to sing to or applaud the health care professionals risking their own health to save us from a pandemic.

Credits: Directed by Carolyn Jones. A Kino Lober release.

Running time: 1:18





About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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