To his credit, I don't think you can see a legendary name like Richard Linklater pop up onscreen and not take notice – he's the executive producer of this short documentary film. That's the kind of name that immediately gets people paying their full attention as they should be, and in this particular case, I'm genuinely thankful for that. "Help Her Live" went on to be such an incredibly personal story that went far beyond any expectations I could have had from seeing Linklater's name in the credits. The main reason for that revolves around the heart put into this story, metaphorically and quite literally. There is an excellent chance that "Help Her Live" will make you cry while you watch it, and it probably should.
Centered around the story of young Sammi Kraft in a beautiful tribute to a life that was all too short, you see this remarkable woman's impact through the eyes of her brother, Frankie Kraft, who directed this film. He's on both sides of the lens, which was important. We really needed to see the people that were affected by the aftermath of such a tragic accident, which saw Sammi lose her life in a car crash. In many ways, it's a story that touches us all. We've either heard about or likely know someone that's been in a major crash. The luckiest among us survive, but unfortunately, as we know, that's far from everyone. "Help Her Live" is the story of what happened to Sammi Kane Kraft.
There's a phrase - a quote that often comes back to me in the saddest of scenarios… I'm not entirely sure who said it first, but you'll recognize it: "Don't cry because it's over – smile because it happened." I tried to keep that in mind as I got to know Sammi Kraft through this film and the memories Frankie was kind enough to share. The tragedy of an accident is always awful to think about. Realizing that good people like Sammi's parents are always behind the door when the police come to relay the horrific news is just as terrible. Knowing there are too many wonderful lives affected by a chain of events that moves at such a rapid pace in the aftermath can practically be unbearable. You see that through some of the most personal scenes onscreen with Frankie, where he makes no attempt to control his emotions and lets them loose right in front of us in many moments of tremendous vulnerability and emotional bravery. Those scenes are hard to watch, especially if you're the type of viewer like I am, that attempts to put themselves in the shoes of those they're watching - in an attempt to understand where they're coming from. Feeling the overwhelming weight of Frankie's despair and the loss of his sister is truly powerful.
If that's all that "Help Her Live" was, however, then it wouldn't have been enough. It would have been akin to reading the obituaries and feeling the sadness of someone losing someone they loved, which we are unfortunately exposed to almost every day in some way, shape, or form. That's where Frankie's direction shines brightest, however – he chose to make this documentary about so much more than the sadness; he revealed how the worst of tragedies can still become a triumph and serve a purpose. I loved spending time with Sammi onscreen by watching her play her guitar and listening to her sing. I'm from the Grunge era and can officially vouch for her songwriting. She might have been rocking on an acoustic for the most part, but she's got those undeniable real Grunge roots in the observant way she wrote her songs, what she chose to write about, and how she chose to sing about it. There's a scene in a park…a place where Frankie goes to remember Sammi… it's every bit as beautiful as it is heartbreaking, and it's one of the best parts of the film that helps us get to know her as an artist. The footage you'll see is special, to say the very least; it's preserved her memory and her music as one.
Where "Help Her Live" becomes perhaps the most effective, and reveals the remarkably altruistic intentions behind the making of this film, is by meeting Yvonne – the recipient of Sammi Kraft's heart. We get to witness how incredible that moment is for Frankie, we get to see Yvonne's pure joy and gratefulness, and we get to hear the story of how Sammi's heart allowed her to EXIST. Think about how amazing that truly is, just for a moment. The ripple effect of this organ transplant is equally astounding, and you can see how much Frankie really needed to have this experience overall. You realize that something like Yvonne being Puerto Rican and Sammi being Jewish transcends all racial biases and proves how we're all people made of the same crucial pieces on the inside. You get to see how what Yvonne went through mentally and physically has her relentlessly in carpe diem mode to this very day. You get to discover one of the most inspiring parts of this story in learning about how Yvonne went from never having touched an instrument to carrying on Sammi's legacy in a really unique way you'd never have assumed by learning how to play the piano. You get to hear Sammi's actual heartbeat.
There is no doubt that the story of Sammi's life and how it entwines with Yvonne's is one of the most endearing things you'll see onscreen this year – but what that moment really accomplishes beyond all things is that it opens the door to the conversation regarding how incredibly crucial the organ donation programs of this planet truly are. The reality is, there are at least three other donors beyond Yvonne that I believe were recognized in credits onscreen, that document how Sammi's life went on to save the life of others – and "Help Her Live" goes on to confirm that one single donor can potentially save something like seventy-plus people depending on the circumstances, which is a truly eye-opening stat. That's the core of what "Help Her Live" is all about… it's about how the life of Sammi Kraft might have been way too short, but it was so far from meaningless, and she now lives on within the body of others, the spirit of those that she loved, and the memories of everyone that ever crossed paths with her.
While you'll be reaching for your Kleenex, I'm sure you'll be delighted to know that Yvonne's granddaughter was named Sammi and that the circle of life continues. So "don't cry because it's over – smile because it happened." We all serve a purpose on this giant floating rock we all call home, even if we have no idea what that might be or what role we'll play – we're all interconnected, and "Help Her Live" proves that in the most beautiful ways you can imagine. I'm going with really high marks here and giving this documentary a 4.5-star review; it's a wonderfully moving tribute and, beyond that, important.
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