What an excellent cinema-verite look at a day in the life of Oakland's busiest emergency room. This could easily have been made as a polemic about the problems of the health care system--how the poor and indigent use the ER as their only source of care, how the system is overwhelmed and underfunded, etc. But instead it steps back and just looks at the caring people who work there and the range of patients they see.
As far as the staff, I particularly liked nurse Cynthia Y. Johnson, who always seems to have a sweet disposition even when she's scolding someone for coming in three days after he ran out of his medication. The film is smart to basically open and close on her. I also liked Dr. Doug White, who looks like central casting sent him over as an ER doc admits that most ER docs of his age got into it because they wanted to be like George Clooney on ER. But I think what I liked the most was in the credits they're all listed by name but no title--the doctors don't get "Dr." before their name. It gave me the sense that everyone is equally important there.
As far as the patients, they're a wide-ranging set. There's the young man with a testicular tumor who had surgery scheduled at Kaiser until they kicked him out because he wasn't a member (they knew that all along, but scheduled the surgery anyway?) There's the middle-aged guy with agonizing back pain whose mortgage is underwater and can't stop working, but also can't get treatment for at least a month. There's the dad with his scared daughter with swollen tonsils. And, of course, there's the regular--a repeat patient who the staff knows by name, an addict who was brought in off the street with trouble breathing.
THE WATING ROOM screens 3 times in the festival:
Saturday, April 21, 3:50 pm at the Pacific Film Archives
Monday, April 30, 1:00 pm at the Kabuki
Tuesday, May 1, 6:30 pm at the Kabuki
The director and possibly some subjects of the film are expected at some of the screenings.
Running Time: 81 minutes
My Total Minutes: 276,914