In both form and content, Peter Nicks's observational documentary about a public hospital in Oakland, California, recalls two of Frederick Wiseman's greatest early features, Hospital (1970) and Welfare (1975). Like Wiseman, Nicks doesn't editorialize on the social service he records, instead accumulating enough revealing detail to create a portrait of the society it serves. His shrewdest decision is to focus on middle-class patients who've lost their jobs or been denied health care by their employers, though his depictions of the impoverished patients (or, for that matter, the doctors and nurses) are no less sympathetic. This especially recalls Wiseman in its minimum of exterior shots; the hospital comes to resemble a society unto itself, which makes the onscreen acts of kindness seem not just reassuring but vital.
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