Hospitals can be scary places. Nobody is there for fun times; everyone is scared, unhappy, sick or in pain. Or some combination. We depend on the hospital staff to keep us together. We rely on the doctors, of course, to diagnose and treat, but we rely especially on the nursing staff, who spend all of their time with patients. The people who work diligently to make sure we are comfortable and cared for until we can go home. They administer our medications, track our bowel movements, clean up our messes, and are there until the bitter end. These people work tirelessly and often go underappreciated, but their role is no less important. Our lives are in their hands, after all.
Martin Kraut’s La Dosis looks at a pair of these caretakers and the extremes to which they will go in service of their work. What happens when a nurse will go to any length to provide care for their patients? And what happens when the notion of “care” takes on a different meaning altogether?
Marcus (Carlos Portaluppi) is a devoted and well-respected nurse. He works in an ICU and takes pride in his work, caring for the sick and making himself very involved in their care.
Marcus also harbors a dark secret - he is a little TOO invested in the care of his patients. He strives to make them well enough to go back to their former lives, but sometimes, that hope is unreachable. He knows when a patient has a chance at recovery and when they don’t. When they are being kept alive out of a sense of dwindling hope, or are suffering without any sort of agency or spark left. And that’s when he takes matters into his own hands, filling syringes with drugs that will quietly send the slowly dying on their way. He takes no pleasure in the actual act, but finds peace in the way that he is able to release these people from what he presumes to be some sort of hospital purgatory.
Then the hospital hires a new nurse. The young, handsome and charismatic Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers) joins the staff and is assigned to Marcus’ ward. This is his first job as a nurse, and he learns the ropes fast. He is immediately comfortable in his role, and the patients and staff respond well to his presence. Marcus is begrudgingly pleased with his work, though a little less so with the place that Gabriel has immediately taken in the social structure of the hospital.
One night, Marcus walks in on Gabriel injecting air into a dying patient’s IV, and the dynamic immediately changes. Marcus and Gabriel realize that they harbor the same secret, and that outing the other will result in their own dark truth coming to light. The pair then begin to engage in a daily game of cat and mouse in the name of protecting their own secret, while also ensuring that the other won’t somehow step out of line and out them both. This becomes particularly difficult when the hospital begins to notice that the number of dead patients has recently risen. Marcus has been able to operate without drawing attention to himself, but 2 nurses running around playing Kevorkian draws much more scrutiny.
The film is interesting in the way it characterizes each man. Marcus keeps to himself. He is dedicated to his job and to providing care to those who need it, but his life is relatively empty. He has no friends outside of work, his apartment is dingy and falling apart, and he seems to close himself off from everything around him. He also performs euthanasia as a gift to the suffering. He believes his intentions to be pure and good.
Gabriel, on the other hand, is a man of swagger and confidence. He is not cocky, but he has an assuredness about him, and is comfortable in any situation. He is openly flirtatious with the hospital staff, and is immediately well liked. His approach to euthanasia is more ego-centric. It is a power trip for him. He does it because he can, and he relishes the idea of having the power to make this decision on behalf of his patients.
What the film does well is set these two personalities in conflict. They aren’t exactly against each other, but they aren’t exactly on the same team either. In order to fully understand Gabriel and his methods, Marcus must look carefully at a part of himself that he has kept walled off and unexamined. The film reaches its peak in the third act when the two men are no longer on even footing and Marcus finds himself vulnerable in a way that he has never before been. This is when the story really finds its stride. It is absolutely a thriller, but the suspense doesn’t really strike gold until that final chapter. It makes for some great scenes between Marcus and Gabriel, but leaves the audience wishing that we had been operating at that level for the full runtime of the film.
All in all, La Dosis is an entertaining film that puts its characters to good use. It builds these personalities out from the position that each man takes over the “services” that he provides, and watching those characters develop imprints heavily on the story itself.
Movie Score: 3.5/5