Rounding: Film Review | Tribeca 2022
(2.5/5) There’s the occasional piece of chilling imagery and a great lead performance, but this doesn’t commit to any of its themes with enough intensity. It's too slow and subtle to be a successful horror or thriller, and not compelling enough for a medical drama.
HORRORTHRILLERDRAMAFILM FESTIVALTRIBECAMOLLY KUSILKA
I’d describe Rounding, Written and Directed by Alex Thompson, and starring the stellar ensemble of Namir Smallwood, Sidney Flanigan, and Michael Potts, as a psychological medical drama, with horror and thriller elements. The film follows a resident doctor, who has a traumatic experience at his former hospital, in his experience transferring to a new hospital for what he hopes to be a fresh start. He quickly becomes consumed by a mysterious case of a severe asthma patient with an overbearing mother where things don’t seem to add up.
This is, unfortunately, one of those films where the premise sounds like a slam dunk, but the film is so underwhelming in comparison. Rounding is unfortunately far too timid in its approach to psychological horror. There are some moments of strikingly chilling imagery, but they are few and far between. The bulk of this film is spent with James at the hospital or at home, in clear mental distress, but just seeing someone in psychological torment is not enough to make the audience feel their fear and understand their mental state. Smallwood does a great deal of heavy-lifting, but it’s not enough to overcompensate for so little actual narrative.
The film does pick up in the last third, as James spirals further into obsession and begins to nail down what he thinks is actually going on with the asthma patient. But it ultimately doesn’t even commit to the medical thriller it becomes. It says a lot that the most interesting and genuinely frightening thread in the film is James’ neglected ankle injury he refuses to treat. The neglected injury horror trope just never misses, as it always makes for brutal, horrifying visuals. But here, it doesn’t even quite work, because we don’t understand why he’s refusing to treat his broken ankle when he is literally a medical professional, or why everyone around him, who is also a medical professional, doesn’t even acknowledge it. While successful in being chilling and effective body horror, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for his character. He’s clearly mentally unwell, but we aren’t given enough to fully understand his mental state and why he’s in this state. The camera often pans to religious imagery on the walls, some real and some imagined, but these moments aren’t really expanded upon and don’t connect to the main plot thread of him figuring out what’s going on with the asthma patient. They feel a bit shoehorned in - a little sprinkle of religious imagery with no connection to the story.
It’s ultimately not until the last scene of the film that we understand what happened at his old hospital and the trauma he’s dealing with. But at this point, it’s far too late. I wish the big final reveal was just revealed much sooner because it would’ve added much to the viewer’s understanding of why he is in such an obsessive and anxious state at his new residency, and why he’s so fixated on the asthma patient. Rounding is a classic case of plenty of intriguing ideas that aren’t well executed or tied together. There’s much bubbling under the surface regarding the trauma medical professionals have to endure, and it’s a topic I hope is explored again, but it feels unfortunately underdeveloped here.