“Help Her Live” Review

By Morgan Roberts

Year: 2022

Director: Frankie Kraft

When someone passes away and you read their obituary, after the short summations of a person’s life, you also see the section: “Survived by.” Because, when we lose someone we love, we survive that loss. To survive is to continue live or exist in spite of hardship. We continue to live as we carry grief beyond comprehension and articulation. For some, grief can be defined as love with no place to go. But grief can also be fuel for deep empathy, it can be a creative force, it can produce a drive to live fully. Above all, it can be a complicated combination of each of those things. And despite the universal truth that we will all experience loss and live with grief, it is so difficult for us to confront or connect with that reality. 

In the short documentary film “Help Her Live,” filmmaker Frankie Kraft takes the audience on a candid journey of loss and grief and healing. Kraft’s younger sister Sammi Kane Kraft was a talented musician, a boisterous force of nature, and, at 20, a deeply pensive and reflective young woman. In October 2012, Sammi passed away following a car accident. Kraft’s family made the decision to donate Sammi’s organs. Seven years following her death, Kraft met Yvonne Payne, the woman who received Sammy’s heart. 

Frankie Kraft in “Help Her Live”

We possess language when it comes to the loss of a spouse or the loss of a parent.  You are widowed.  You are orphaned.  But to lose a sibling and to lose a child, there is no word to capture that loss. No language to provide a common understanding of what that loss is. What “Help Her Live” does is provide a personal glimpse into that specific journey with grief.  Kraft does not shy away from moments of pain and bereavement. When Kraft visits his sister’s grave, we are shown raw, unfiltered emotions. He talks to his parents about Sammi. They recount the night of her accident. We see their heartbreak over losing their daughter along with their resolute about donating Sammi’s organs. The way that Kraft and his family allow you into their lives, their truths, their journeys, is intimate and sincere. It feels as if, as the audience, what you are beholding is truly an honor. How often do people share their loss? Even as each person experiences loss and trauma, how often do we allow ourselves to fully grieve? And more rarely, how often are we brave enough to have grief reflected back at us in an honest way?  

Sammi Kane Kraft in “Help Her Live”

And through this journey, “Help Her Live” also introduces us to an incredible woman in her own right. Payne, who has been plagued by ill-health most of her life, gets a second chance at life through the donation of Sammi’s heart. Payne shares her home and her life with Kraft. Her warmth and gratitude radiate from the screen. The film documenting Kraft and Payne’s meeting is truly special. It feels like an privilege to witness these two people with their own histories and lives meeting at the confluence of a shared journey. It is moving to hear how the same event created differing tidal waves of change for Payne and Kraft. 

The through line of “Help Her Live” is the legacy of one person: Sammi. Her heart continues on in Payne. Payne existing right now is due to Sammi and her family. Sammi’s memory lives on in her family and her friends. Her art and her music subsist. And “Help Her Live” is a film that was created and has been shared with the world. It is powerful not just learning about these people and their lives, but becoming part of Sammi’s legacy as well. For every person who watches this documentary, you are just as much a part of this story as those who personally knew Sammi. It is difficult not to be moved by Frankie or Sammi or Yvonne. 

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