The Waiting Room

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If you’ve ever been to an emergency room, you know it’s hell. The Waiting Room only reaffirms these truths. It’s a day -- or rather a night -- in the life of Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif. And what the camera captures will alternately frustrate you, anger you, and bring you to tears. The film follows a certain number of patients, most uninsured. A triage nurse is the film’s sunshine, a genuinely caring, gentle, and upbeat guide for all these frightened patients. And there are so many patients; the film’s synopsis claims the ER attends to 241 in 24 hours. They wait and they bitch, wait and bitch. It’s understandable, but you also see things from the hospital’s view: Someone with a broken toe is just going to have to wait awhile when an ambulance drops off a gunshot victim. At a brisk 83 minutes, The Waiting Room is compelling enough, but it’s no more than a slice-of-life. (TO)