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My eyes closed tight

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 01, 2021 6:00 am

I love watching European films with English subtitles. I enjoyed Trapped, a mini-series set in Iceland. That’s the language they spoke so I could turn the volume down really low so as not to bother others I live with.

I liked the hero, a huge actor with a beard and a big stomach. There was something bearish about him. I loved the plot. Murder and mystery on ice. I love murder mysteries with — emphasis on this point — psychotic over- and undertones. I guess that’s the kind of person I am. I enjoy watching and understanding the workings of the human mind, the forming and warping of human character.

Before that, I enjoyed watching a French mini-series whose title I cannot remember but it starred Gérard Depardieu, who has also become overweight since I saw him long ago in the movie Green Card. That was also pretty good. It was a political movie where someone who had become somebody’s trusted assistant and replacement turned out to be his illegitimate son.

But finally the other day — because when I like a series I tend to watch it well into the night so it’s over for me in a few days — I tuned in to The Good Doctor. The lead actor, Freddie Highmore, looked familiar to me. I knew I had watched him before: he was young, but in that other series, there was something psychologically wrong with him… and his mother. 

  The Good Doctor stars Freddie Highmore, who plays Shaun Murphy, an autistic savant who gets visions of what is wrong with a patient and the way to treat them.

In that earlier series, he reminded me of Tony Perkins in Psycho. It was about an old motel in America at the back of which was the owners’ house that looked old, gloomy, and seemed haunted. It was a long series and I watched the whole thing. Highmore was the lead actor in it. Finally, I remembered: it was Bates Motel. That was pretty good.

Freddie, as I found by searching on Google, is a British actor. Google says: “He's still pretty young, but Freddie Highmore has already made a fairly impressive career for himself. Before starring in The Good Doctor, he played Norman Bates on Bates Motel, and earned praise for his performance as a younger version of the motel manager from Psycho (apparently Google and I think the same way). Although Bates Motel was undoubtedly an important stepping-stone in Highmore's career, his role on The Good Doctor was even more transformative, even though he almost turned it down.”

‘The Good Doctor’ totally captivated me. When I cannot sleep at night, I watch a few episodes. I cannot stop even if I absolutely hate all the operation scenes, the extreme close-ups of throbbing organs, the darkened red blood that clings to the doctors’ blue gloves.

So in The Good Doctor, he plays Shaun Murphy — a young, autistic savant highly skilled in medicine. He gets visions of what is wrong with the patient and the way to treat them in the same way Elizabeth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit would envision her winning chess games. 

  Freddie Highmore played Norman Bates on Bates Motel and earned praise for his performance. 

I guess this technique is the latest and so far the best way producers and directors have of portraying the individual’s imagination. I must say it works wonderfully. But Shaun Murphy has a hard time communicating and making friends with the people around him. He plays the role of an autistic individual superbly.

This is the only series I have ever watched where, in the beginning, I would simply look elsewhere when they would slice someone’s stomach open. Then I would shut my eyes and just open one eye to see if the operation with all the blood had passed.

The Good Doctor totally captivated me. Between making rosaries during the day, I escape into the bedroom to watch one episode. When I cannot sleep at night, I watch a few episodes. I cannot stop even if I absolutely hate all the operation scenes, the extreme close-ups of throbbing organs, the darkened red blood that clings to the doctors’ blue gloves.

This is the only series I have ever watched where, in the beginning, I would simply look elsewhere when they would slice someone’s stomach open. Then I would shut my eyes and just open one eye to see if the operation with all the blood had passed.

From there I graduated to clenching my eyes together and scrunching my face into a frown, then covering my eyes and pressing my palms against them. Those scenes are horrible, but I guess they can’t do anything about them. Being a surgeon is a gory business.

In the end, I not only loved the story but noticed that Highmore was also the producer. He even wrote the first episode of Season 2, which was pretty good and he’s apparently directed a few episodes himself. It shows us that today television — or is it closer to cinema? — is open to the expression of many talents.

  Dr. Neil Melendez, played by Nicholas Gonzalez. ABC

I also like Doctor Melendrez, played on the show by good-looking Nicholas Gonzalez. He and I share the same surname — “Z” at the end of Gonzalez. I’ll bet we are related through a Mexican explorer who once came to the Philippines.

The Good Doctor tells us that hospitals and workplaces are open to all races. In this series, which is based on a Korean series, you see white people, black people, and Asians, all mixtures of cultures coming together to show folks that there should be no such thing as racism, to show us that life mixes all races with excellent results. I think that’s really good subtext.

Photo by David Bukach/ ABC