February 25, 2014

Netflix Picks: A Young Doctor’s Notebook

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With the Winter Olympics coming to a close on Sunday night, I’m sure many of you will be experiencing Russian withdrawal. Luckily, I have found your next fix. Some may have heard of the British mini-series, A Young Doctor’s Notebook, but few may have seen it. The wonderfully reliable Netflix allows you to escape into the bleak and torturous Russian countryside, which is basically the same as the resort town of Sochi, right?

Once you get past a stark height difference and the fact that Daniel Radcliffe couldn’t possibly turn into Jon Hamm, you get to appreciate the story of an addict that turns to morphine to cope with being a young, inexperienced doctor trying to forge his way. It’s the quintessential bildungsroman, one based on the loosely-autobiographical short stories by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov who was sent to a secluded Russian village upon graduating medical school. Pre-meds count your blessings that you will practice in this modern day and age; otherwise, you would surely turn away from the profession.

Aside from the performances and the overall storyline, the show excels in its visceral depictions of surgery and the downfall into addiction. As the young doctor struggles with his first birth or first amputation, you can’t help but sweat along with him, hoping that he won’t kill his patients due to his inexperience. Quick side note: the amount of Radcliffe’s and Hamm’s glistening, pale, sickly faces could also be of more concern for those with weak stomachs than the various surgeries. This plays into the growing addiction to morphine. The older doctor, in a fit of hallucinations, travels back in time through his old notebooks coaching his younger self to become a more confident doctor as well as warn him against the pitfalls of morphine. His appearances are seamlessly interwoven into the scenes without falling into the Dickensian ghost cliché.

As in all of his performances since Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe continues to prove his talents, and in this case, his comedic timing. Trying to reason his way through an operation or explaining to a patient that he’s going to need more than a gurgle for his advanced syphilis is incredibly funny. Jon Hamm also proves he’s more than Mad Men‘s smooth Don Draper or his arrogant and unlikeable personas in Friends with Kids and Bridesmaids. The pair of them should really consider more of these comedic roles. And you should definitely consider a binge on this mini-series, if you could even call it a binge as it’s only 4 episodes at 25 minutes each. It’s basically one movie. Totally manageable for procrastinating just the right amount.