It’s hard to think of a time when organ transplant didn’t exist. Now it seems so commonplace, yet no less remarkable. For her sixth feature documentary, Confessions of a Good Samaritan, director Penny Lane turns the camera on herself as she details her own journey to donate a kidney to an unknown stranger. This selfless act comes as Lane examines the many blessings in her life and looks for a way to give back. But is giving away a vital organ the best, or only way? Are those known as altruistic donors actually different in their capacity for empathy, leading to their remarkable generosity?
Lane is focused mainly on her story, sitting down for her own set of candid interviews that try to make sense of her decision, and document her anxiety and doubts as the surgery day arises. Her honesty is refreshing, and means the film never becomes a PSA about organ donation. Lane also casts a wider net, interviewing other living donors, doctors, psychologists and even a bioethics expert.
Confessions of a Good Samaritan is a polished, well-executed documentary with an interesting array of visuals and archival footage. The inclusion of Lane’s own experiences obviously make this film more personal, and she’s an affable subject, though at times it feels like she’s toeing the line of looking for recognition for her sacrifice. Perhaps that adds to the discussion as to whether anything is truly altruistic, a complex philosophical debate. Confessions is truly at its best when it attempts to investigate the science behind true altruism and when it looks at the history of transplants and the surrounding ethical dilemmas they create. It scratches that surface, but often remains there, never really digging deep enough.
- Release Date: 4/30/2023