• Charlie Vogelsang

The Elephant In The Room (2020) Review

A hospital drama that follows a nurse practitioner and his colleagues in a palliative care team as they connect with patients providing an insight into all their lives.

Based on the book Resilient Hearts by Bonnie Freeman, The Elephant in the Room tells the story of a nurse practitioner named Michael, played by Niko Vitacco, and his colleagues at a hospital as they interact with dying patients. The film is directed by the author's husband, Allen Freeman, and pays tribute to his late wife.

The majority of The Elephant in the Room follows Michael’s story as he goes around his normal day seeing patients. Throughout the film, Michael primarily has three key patients that all have an impact on his life. It begins with a young boy battling terminal cancer, then joins a janitor in the hospital suffering with terminal heart disease. Finally, Cooper (played by Craig Callo) is the patient that gets the most attention by Michael as they form a love-hate relationship.

The moments not focused on Michael show the rest of the hospital staff and often feel like a TV hospital drama. It’s confusing at times as it initially seems like Michael is the lead character, but then the film cuts to a completely different moment focusing on another member of staff that is never brought up again.

Sometimes, though, you're glad to take a break from Michael. Simply put, there is only one way to describe his character - annoying. The Elephant in the Room tries to depict Michael as this lovable goofball who is truly caring deep down.

The Elephant in the Room is incredibly ambitious, but sadly it doesn’t fully deliver on its potential

Yet Michael’s moments of comedy fall short, with Vitacco's performance making the character feel irrating and, at times, just plain mean. He mocks a doctor on his team and repeatedly undermines her while she tries to help the team relax. The film plays it off as Michael just being silly, but it comes across as cruel.

Many shots in the film are quite clever, and the supporting cast bring some incredible performances. Callo is easily one of the best actors, as they show his struggle as a proud man accepting that he needs help. Social worker Valerie, played by Rupinder Sidhu, delivers a heart wrenching performance with some special moments; most effective is when she breaks down over not being able to help a grieving family. Yet underpinning her emotional performance is a fun and charming side that you’d love to spend time with.

The Elephant in the Room is incredibly ambitious, but sadly it doesn’t fully deliver on its potential. There are emotional moments that show how difficult life is for medical staff, highlighting that they are not just robots who don’t care.

The director uses subtle moments, such as the orange Leukemia ribbon around a picture in Michael’s home, to explain characters without explicitly showing them. Yet Freeman's clever filmmaking work is undermined by a goofish main character and some frustratingly loose ends.


Watch this film on Amazon Prime.