Elizabeth Banks Captivates In Stressful Medical Drama That Retains Its Humanity


  • A Mistake explores the consequences of a single error in a heartfelt and emotional way.
  • Christine Jeffs expertly delves into ethics and emotional accountability in the medical field.
  • Elizabeth Banks shines in a challenging role that balances vulnerability and detachment.

Medical dramas can often be sensationalized and dramatic for the sake of stirring up conflict; A Mistake is anything but. Deftly written and directed by Christine Jeffs, who adapted Carl Shuker’s novel of the same name, the drama sidesteps fictional medical tropes for something that is all too real and emotional. A Mistake is thorough in examining what happens when a medical mistake occurs, and the consequences that come up because of a moment gone wrong. In doing so, Jeffs explores ethics, moral and emotional accountability with a compassionate and nuanced eye.

An emergency surgery sees expert surgeon Liz Taylor (Elizabeth Banks) instructing her registrar, Richard (Richard Crouchley), to cut into a sepsis patient. Nervous, he cuts a bit too deeply and creates another medical emergency the staff must clean up before getting to the crux of the problem. It’s a split-second moment, but it’s a life-changing one for Liz and Richard, who must contend with the aftermath, questions from the patient’s parents, and medical bureaucracies. This is all while the hospital is gearing up to publicly report surgeons’ performances.

A Mistake Makes Us Think About Consequences & What We Owe Each Other

A Mistake spends the majority of its runtime contemplating the responsibility we owe each other as humans. While the hospital itself — and Liz, in protection of Richard as his supervisor — want to protect from liability, Jeffs’ script delves into the narrative from a personal angle. The film never wavers from Liz’s perspective, and she goes on an emotional, shaky journey that finds her wondering what she, as a surgeon, owes her patient, but also the responsibility she has to her own staff. Her previously unwavering confidence is tested, and the film powerfully captures that vulnerability.

More than anything, however, A Mistake is sympathetic. Liz isn’t made out to be an unfeeling villain and the patient’s parents are not antagonistic in their relentless pursuit of the truth. As Liz navigates the medical system, and the obnoxious head of surgery (Simon McBurney), she learns that her desire to protect — herself, Richard, her decision — is not as simple as the black-and-white answers that are being required of her. Even a simple truth is not an easy one, and the film understands that to face it is to actually hold oneself accountable, regardless of what’s at stake.

…the film is firm in portraying emotions as it digs into its humanity.

A Mistake makes clear that, even when going up against medical bureaucracy, losing one’s humanity should never be an option. If humanity is lost, there’s no hope for anything. Who do we answer to if not each other? Through a harrowing series of events, Jeffs proves a capable filmmaker who can build intensity and tension just as much as she can create a buildup with a compelling fallout. The film left me reeling by its end, contemplating all the questions it brought up. Answers may not be easy, but being sympathetic and understanding is not to be taken for granted.

It would have been easy for A Mistake to be cold and calculated; Liz comes off that way, at first, if only to keep her emotions at a distance. But the film is firm in portraying emotions as it digs into its humanity. It’s tense from beginning to end, and its serious tone is consistent. This can make the film a bit difficult to get through emotionally, if only because it is down so often and never lets up. And yet, A Mistake is uncompromising and gripping. My eyes never once left the screen, so captivated was I by everything.

Elizabeth Banks Is Excellent In A Role That Isn’t Easy

A Mistake capitalizes on her ability to bring nuance and depth to Liz

Elizabeth Banks as Liz swims in the pool in A Mistake movie still

There’s no doubt that Banks is a capable actress, and she’s proven that over and over again in previous roles. But her portrayal of Liz is perhaps one of her more challenging roles to date. Liz went through a lot in A Mistake, and Banks had to walk a fine line between emotional vulnerability and detachment. The character eventually crumbles as one thing leads to another and the duress of the situation escalates, but the actress manages to make us feel bad for Liz while simultaneously wanting her to make amends.

It’s a nuanced role that Banks absolutely nails, capturing Liz’s experience in a way that makes us feel all that she’s going through. Like the movie itself, Liz’s emotions are a slow-burn buildup that erupts like a volcano before the ash settles in the aftermath. The supporting cast — McBurney is especially great as the film’s antagonist, of sorts, who stands between Liz and her — is also excellent, helping to build out Liz’s world. A Mistake is a winding, rocky road that accentuates the often hollow detachment that is linked with medical practice, but that retains its humanity and its importance throughout.

A Mistake premiered at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival.

A Mistake_Movie_Teaser Poster-1

In the midst of a new scheme to publicly report surgeons’ performance, a gifted surgeon’s life is thrown into disarray as her colleagues begin to close ranks, and even her partner who is a nurse at the hospital turns her back on her.


  • Christine Jeffs masterfully portrays the nuance the film’s story requires
  • Elizabeth Banks delivers a captivating performance that adds depth to Liz
  • The film tackles a heavy subject matter with grace
  • A Mistake is compelling from start to finish

  • The film’s tone is too often serious with no in-between

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