Lenox Hill Review: Medical Documentary Aptly Timed But Covers Little

Rhea Srivastava -

Lenox Hill Review: Medical Documentary Aptly Timed But Covers Little
Movie Rated

Format: Docu-Series
Platform:  Netflix
Movie Rated: 13+
Genre: Documentary 
Language: English
Digital Premiere Date: 10 June 2020

I can’t say that medical documentary filmmaking is a genre that is chartered territory for me. So when a docu-series centred around a hospital and its doctors begins, using the technique of in verite filmmaking, it takes me by a bit of surprise. Nevertheless, a hospital is probably the best place to show off if a filmmaker has mastered the technique. Owing to recent developments especially, no reminder is enough that a hospital is where all the action is (even if secretly we all hope if it was otherwise), and the unbelievable pressure under which surgeons, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers perform their regular duties is laudable (in this case, also incredibly real). Lenox Hill does a good job in adding to a list of reminders that we must respect the workers in this field, coronavirus or no coronavirus. 
Directed by Adi Barash and Ruthie Shatz, ‘Lenox Hill’ is, in fact, about a Manhattan surgical hospital by the same name. The focus, though, is kept specifically on four doctors - Dr John Boockvar and Dr David Langer, neurosurgeons who are doing some ground-breaking work on patients with terminal diseases; OBGYN Dr Amanda Little-Richardson who does a fabulous job at delivering babies; and Dr Mirtha Macri who is both a doctor as well as a counsellor for underprivileged residents of the area. During the course of eight episodes, the four physicians not only show immense love, support and care to each patient that comes asking for assistance, but also build a glorious team of practitioners that bring the ambitions of the hospital to life by not only doing their jobs impeccably but also finding joy and humour in their everyday duties. 

Unlike what people could misconstrue about the series, Lenox Hill isn’t a propaganda piece in light of recent developments. It was shot over 2018 and 2019, and the good intent behind showcasing the lives of doctors over and above anything else is certainly evident in the way it is presented. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need a reminder but that isn’t to say that Lenox Hill isn’t a welcome reminder of how we need to value the field of medicine beyond the superficial greed of ‘need.’ 
Apart from some detailed (and mostly uncomfortable conversations) with patients, and some graphic surgical imagery, there are four deeply personal stories to learn about. Lenox Hill humanises all of its core characters by presenting a side of their personal life that we don’t often associate as an emotional burden to doctors. Dr Little-Richardson, who delivers babies, has had to deal with the loss of her own. Dr Macri survives on just a few hours of sleep in between swarms of patients. And both Dr Boockvar and Dr Langer were motivated to keep at the medical profession after the loss of their fathers. 

The flipside to this comes from the limited worldview that the backgrounds of these doctors show. Both John and David are white men who are often seen leading the hospital in a casual arrogance, enough for their families to seem completely unimportant in their eyes. The opposite end of the spectrum is handed to the women (both of whom are of colour and pregnant) to show the lack of privilege that doctors may have in the US. The struggle for the women is obviously much higher, to the extent that even the hours could take a toll on their bodies. But you wouldn’t hear a peep from them onscreen. Having four doctors in different departments may seem comprehensive enough, but it underserves a profession which thrives on different types and strata of staff from paramedics to surgeons to administrative staff to nurses to insurance workers, etc. So, the human side comes shining through, but with limited worldview towards the hospital and how it runs overall. 
Some of the longest-running shows on cable and TV networks in the United States have been medical dramas and dramedies, including the popular MASH, ER and the still-running Grey’s Anatomy. Without diminishing the value of a real hospital, whatever methodology has been used to cut Lenox Hill, makes it often come across as what Grey’s Anatomy would be with real doctors and accurate science (and of course, less drama and sex). All four doctors are very different by personality and it is interesting as a contrast to see the women show immense empathy to their patients, as Boockvar shows precision and confidence, and Langer having open and honest conversations, developing bonds, and even becoming attached to some of his patients. Some of the cases go on for weeks or months, and the emotional setup they get often result in heartbreaking results or happy endings, both of which make the show nail the human connection. 


This is both the show’s biggest asset and also its biggest downfall - there is an emotional core to the show which certainly hits the right chords, but for those expecting some scientific gravitas, it may feel immensely underwhelming. This core also comes from the exposure of a very small group. Perhaps more diversity/inclusion in the American context is needed, and maybe more doctors will be covered if the series continues to run. 
Music and Other Departments
Lenox Hill has a very straightforward and clean screenplay and editing. Instead of going case by case, the show has implemented a chronology-based coverage which enables the viewers to understand the long spans of time, as well as that same duration during the course of which the doctors have created a rapport with the patient. As mentioned before, some of the visuals are extremely graphic, and not everything turns into a happy ending.
Did I Enjoy It?
Mildly. The show is interesting but the larger point it drives home is that doctors are selfless everyday heroes and there’s so little to tell from the cases other than this, that the show can get dull and boring.
Do I Recommend It?
If you are a fan of medical drama shows, especially like ER and Grey’s Anatomy, and have wondered if these kinds of strange occurrences ever happened in a new hospital, go ahead. A Medicine enthusiast might love it as well. For me, however, it was just about okay. But I hope the audience can find emotional resonance with the show at the time of the coronavirus pandemic. 



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