One evening in 2014, an 18 year old boy is hit by a car and when he doesn’t survive the accident, his heart, a much coveted organ, is up for donation. Enter Dr. Andre Boxer (Kelsey Grammer) and Dr. Jordan Taylor (Julia Stiles), colleagues and uneasy romantic partners; their relationship is made even more complicated when the latter is selected to join the transplant committee and will assume control over Boxer’s responsibilities once he moves over to private medicine in a few months.
Seven years later, in the present day, Dr. Boxer has left the hospital environment and has been conducting research trials to try and transplant organs across species. Should his work be successful, the wait list for such a resource will be all but eradicated. Ironically, Boxer’s own heart is failing and based on his current trajectory, he won’t live to see the final results of his work – and he’s unwilling to get a transplant of his own.
Back in 2014, further problems manifest for the transplant team. The original recipient of the heart has just died on the operating table, and there are three other patients that are in need of it: (1) Walter Curtis, a man with bipolar disorder, deteriorating health and has attempted suicide in the past, (2) Trip Granger, a playboy son of a wealthy father, the latter of whom promises a 25 million dollar donation if his son is given the heart and (3) Janet Pike, an older woman who has no job or support system. With the organ already en route to the hospital, the committee has one hour to decide who will get it, otherwise it will expire. Boxer is all for keeping things objective and emotionless whereas Taylor dares to consider each individual holistically. Yet the lives of each patient must be made quantifiable, because if they aren’t, it’s impossible “trying to figure out what a day of life is worth”.
Also starring Jeneane Garofalo, Peter Kim, Patricia R. Floyd and Colman Domingo, The God Committee is an American medical drama, based on the play by Mark St. Germain. The film jumps between 2014 and present day; the alternating timeline is reminiscent of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, with the two periods marked by a noticeable shift in colour schemes.
A single, overarching question defines the entire piece: are we meant to – should we be allowed to – play God? “We all die,”; Boxer says this as a fact, but do we have a responsibility as thinking, rational, feeling human beings to prevent death as long as we can? What right do we have to even try? Director Austin Stark provides viewers with a peek behind the curtain, highlighting the politics and hardships that plague physicians each day and their attempts to answer such questions.
The overall pace of the film presents a juxtaposition: the drama is somewhat soft, yet continual. The time jumps, while they do help to build depth into the storyline, and it is interesting to see Boxer and Taylor’s backgrounds unfold into their fated futures, do cause the film to drag. Perhaps Stark ought to have focused solely on the past, that way the stakes would have remained high.
The actors were well chosen, with Grammer and Stiles being able to portray antagonistic co-workers caught between their own moral scruples and professional obligations. The temptations and dilemmas each committee member faces continue to amass, and it is sad to see how personal agendas, legal affairs, greed and bad luck can impact their choices and, in turn, those who rely on them. What’s even more disturbing is the notion that this occurs in the world today.
Though the presented topic is a meaningful one, the final result does not quite live up to its potential. Composed as a love letter to doctors trying to navigate an imperfect system, Stark’s film however, is intriguing enough to warrant a viewing for the philosophical arguments it raises. “We cannot waste a heart,” as the committee agrees, but the heart isn’t just a muscle – it is the core of who we are. What good is a human without one, after all?
The God Committee is available in select cinemas and VOD from July 2nd
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favourite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95