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  • Summary: The Waiting Room uses unprecedented access to go behind the doors of Oakland’s Highland Hospital, a safety-net hospital fighting for survival while weathering the storm of a persistent economic downturn. Stretched to the breaking point, Highland is the primary care facility for 250,000The Waiting Room uses unprecedented access to go behind the doors of Oakland’s Highland Hospital, a safety-net hospital fighting for survival while weathering the storm of a persistent economic downturn. Stretched to the breaking point, Highland is the primary care facility for 250,000 patients of nearly every nationality, race, and religion, with 250 patients – most of them uninsured – crowding its emergency room every day. Using a blend of cinema verité and characters’ voiceover, the film offers a raw, intimate, and often uplifting look at how patients, staff and caregivers cope with disease, bureaucracy, frustration, hope and hard choices during one typically hectic day. (International Film Circuit) Collapse
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 12
  2. Negative: 0 out of 12
  1. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Nov 30, 2012
    100
    With grace, discretion and supreme tact, Nicks sweeps viewers to a climactic montage that wordlessly honors the best ways we care for one another. The Waiting Room bears poetic witness to an overlooked fact: America's health care system may be broken, but its people are anything but.
  2. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    Sep 25, 2012
    100
    Scrupulously apolitical, The Waiting Room is the opposite of a polemic like Michael Moore's "Sicko." But by removing any editorial screen, it confronts you head-on with human suffering that a more humane and equitable system might help alleviate.
  3. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Oct 18, 2012
    100
    This is human drama at its most intense and universal. This is the rare film that can change the way you think and see the world.
  4. 80
    There's more to it than a black-and-white political conclusion, and the laundry list of California documentary heroes in the credits suggests this film is humanist before it's agenda driven.
  5. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Sep 28, 2012
    80
    The Waiting Room is a source of both inspiration and hope. The system may be broken, but the people are not.
  6. Reviewed by: Elise Nakhnikian
    Sep 26, 2012
    75
    Documents emotionally charged interactions between patients and hospital staff without any signs that the subjects are being made to feel self-conscious or that they're behavior is being affected.
  7. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Sep 25, 2012
    60
    The documentary's scope feels a bit small overall - more concerned with capturing the episodic adventures of these disparate subjects than with connecting their experiences to larger societal ills.

See all 12 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. Mar 3, 2013
    6
    Just when I finished reading the 30+ page TIME article about our broken medical system, I go see this movie. It's a very verite look at aJust when I finished reading the 30+ page TIME article about our broken medical system, I go see this movie. It's a very verite look at a public hospital's ER department. People spend hours, even days, waiting for medical help (more like a free clinic that an ER). Most of them don't have insurance and many don't have jobs. Meanwhile, the staff patiently and empathetically tries to deal with the backlog. While only 2 stories are followed in detail, there are glimpses of many more…and this is one of the film's flaws. It shows a mass of problems without solutions, preaching or emotional investment. It effectively spotlights the issue, but doesn't make for especially moving cinema. Expand

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