‘Confessions of a Good Samaritan’ Review: Penny Lane’s Altruism Essay

‘Confessions of a Good Samaritan’ Review: Penny Lane’s Altruism Essay

Despite being a tad too long and a trifle repetitive, the documentary essay “Confessions of a Good Samaritan” from American helmer Penny Lane is a thought-provoking personal investigation into a subject rarely examined: the nature of altruism. Created in the context of Lane’s decision to donate one of her kidneys to a stranger, it explores the science, history and ethics of organ donation, as well as the motivations behind her selfless action. The low-budget production benefits from an articulate and charismatic lineup of expert interviewees, fascinating archival footage and some welcome humor. It marks the first title that production company Sandbox Films is releasing theatrically.

For the record, Lane thought about donating a kidney long before she thought of making a film about organ donation. In a direct address to the audience, she insists that she feels weird and bad that people might think she did it just for the film. Moreover, as she repeats throughout the production, she finds being on camera horrifying. She’s far more comfortable being the person asking the questions, as clips from her previous docus “Listening to Kenny G” and “Hail Satan” illustrate.

Why donate? Back in 2017, Lane was feeling gratitude for her situation in life and considering ways that she could give back. A non-directed kidney donation seemed like a thing that she could do that would require a fairly minimal amount of pain, suffering and risk from her, but would be life-saving for someone else, especially since America faces a desperate organ shortage. 

The statistics are shocking. In the United States, nearly 100,000 people are listed on a national database for kidney transplantation, but perhaps three-quarters of them will die before an appropriate match is found. Yet the choice to make a live, non-directed donation is relatively rare. As Lane hears from others and experiences for herself, many friends and relatives regard the…

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The post “‘Confessions of a Good Samaritan’ Review: Penny Lane’s Altruism Essay” by Alissasimon was published on 06/26/2024 by variety.com