"The Waiting Room": Observing Life at Oakland's Highland Hospital

Nurse Assistant Cynthia Y. Johnson administers care at Oakland’s Highland Hospital in the medical-system documentary The Waiting Room.
Nurse Assistant Cynthia Y. Johnson administers care at Oakland’s Highland Hospital in the medical-system documentary The Waiting Room.

The mandate at Oakland's Highland Hospital, as one doctor says during Pete Nicks' attentive vérité portrait of the place, is to admit people "just as much for their social conditions as for their medical ones." And as the same guy wearily acknowledges, "The ER's not the place to manage someone's overall health." But Nicks hasn't set out to decry a faulty and dehumanizing healthcare system. He'd rather just see how a safety net hospital cares for its unfortunate abundance of mostly uninsured patients. He has the presence of mind to reveal how humanizing the place actually is. Punctuated only with discreet flourishes of music and time-lapse, Nicks' style feels more retro than novel: the fly on the wall during a day in the life. And indeed, what makes The Waiting Room worth visiting is how well it does without the usual narcotizing doc tactics. There's not a single animated interlude or hectoring infographic. Scene after scene goes by without any polemical point scoring. The closest Nicks comes to narration is overlaying scenes of patients' stoic triage endurance with their self-told tales of recent layoffs, lost wages, and lack of coverage. Rather than press suffering people into service as political pawns, he judiciously allows them a nonreductive sort of anonymity. It's the crucial difference between testimony and experience. Formally, at least, it's also one reliable antidote to all manner of urgent unwellness.

 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
 

Now Showing

Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

Powered By VOICE Places

Box Office

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!

©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...