It began about a month ago. My parents wanted my opinion about a movie they had recently seen. I’d watched commercials for the movie, but the commercials were vague and uninformative about the movie’s actual plot. Still, I decided to risk it – I put the disc in my DVD player and settled in.
About a quarter of the way through, I knew why my parents wanted my opinion. I was suffering through the worst transplant movie I had ever seen.
Frustrated and angry at yet another gross misinterpretation of the organ donation process, I started to think. Are transplants not dramatic enough? What about being sick enough to die and requiring another person’s organ(s) to live screams boring? Matching blood and tissue types, making sure the new organ(s) will fit the recipient’s body, the hours of surgery for both the donor and recipient, the recipient’s life after receiving the gift of life…, call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of plot there, even without being embellished.
Thus began my list of the top five worst movies about organ donation. My attempt to fight back against the media’s insistence of over dramatising an already dramatic topic by clearing up popular misconceptions of organ donation.
Number Five: Return to Me
Okay, just to confuse things right off the bat, I actually like this movie. I’ve used it in posts before, chiefly in Mine’s a Camaro Iron Duke, What’s Yours? Return to Me is the oldest movie on my list (made in 2000) and the only one that is intentionally funny.
The story follows Grace Briggs, played by Minnie Driver, a young woman plagued with heart problems since childhood who at long last receives a heart transplant. A year after the transplant finds her living the life she never had the chance to live before: riding a bike, working in her grandfather’s restaurant and hanging out with her friend Megan. Grace struggles with what it means to be alive because another person is dead, and tries to express her gratitude for the gift of life she has received by writing a thank you letter to the donor family.
Bob Rueland, played by David Duchovny, is a man whose wife dies in a car accident. Overwhelmed with grief over the woman he has loved since high school, Bob takes his time getting back into dating. When Bob and Grace meet, however, they both have feelings of familiarity and fall in love quickly.
Grace, fearing Bob will think she is broken or defective, puts off telling him about her heart transplant. Encouraged by her friend Megan, Grace finally makes up her mind to tell him but then discovers her thank you note at his house. Putting two and two together, Grace rushes almost hysterically from Bob’s, feeling incredibly guilty and saddened that she is the recipient of Bob’s dead wife’s heart.
She tells Bob the whole story the next day, and decides to go to Italy because she doesn’t want to remind him of the pain of losing his wife. Bob is understandably overwhelmed by the news and takes his time sorting things out. Eventually though he comes around and realises he is still in love with Grace, despite the odd situation. He goes to her place in the hopes of seeing her, but finds out from her grandfather that she’s already left for Italy.
This is the moment when a movie that could be written off as a romantic comedy makes itself worthy of being number five on my list. Grace’s grandfather takes Bob into his garden to talk about Grace and tells him, “When she met you, her heart beat truly for the first time. Perhaps it was meant to be with you always.”
Herein lies organ donation misconception number one: transplanted organs transfer feelings from one body to another. Not only does Grace have Bob’s dead wife’s heart, but with Grace’s grandfather’s words it sounds like the heart is stalking Bob. It loved him when it was in his wife Elizabeth, but even when she died and the heart switched bodies, it still loved him. The heart found a way to survive and continue in its quest to love Bob… forever.
I like to think if I had not had a transplant and if I wasn’t in the position of eventually needing a heart transplant myself, I would find the thought of Elizabeth and Grace’s heart always belonging to Bob romantic instead of creepy. Since I have had a transplant and I am in that position though, I can only speculate.
Still, this is the only movie on my list I would actually recommend for watching. It’s hilarious, and although I find the beginning difficult to get through with the hospital and transplant scenes, I laugh more than I cry when I watch it.
I’ll try not to ruin the ending by saying any more, although I would like to say this is a chick flick, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Just remember, organs don’t stalk people; people stalk people.
Join me next time to find out which movie ranks number four on my list.