An immigrant doctor named Saeed, fearing deportation during an increasingly hostile political climate, has escaped to the forest and lives off-grid. He has lived in isolation for years, with no communication or information from civilization at large.
But one day Saeed comes across the body of a man in the woods. He learns that it belongs to a racist inflammatory politician named Robert, who has been kidnapped. The former doctor decides to care for the politician, but the gap between them proves too far to bridge.
Written and directed by Dustin Curtis Murphy, this intellectually ambitious and visually stunning short drama is a portrait of a man marginalized by the currents of hate in his society, who finds himself unexpectedly in the cross-hairs of a major moment in human history. The storytelling is thoughtful and precise, with special attention paid to the environment and political landscape, which pays off when the film reveals its full intent.
The short is handsomely photographed, with beautifully soft lighting and dynamic camerawork. The scenes in nature have a particular emphasis on their beauty and scope: sweeping shots and wide angles showcase both the isolation and richness of the natural world that the doctor has made his home and refuge. It would almost be bucolic, but for the muted darkness and cloudiness, which have dark portents over the film’s narrative.
Amidst this natural setting, Saeed has isolated himself from society, but when his path intersects with Robert, he finds he still possesses the altruism of his former profession. Actors Chris Kyriacou and Peter Ormond don’t have much screen time together, but deftly communicate their respective positions in the economical, pared-down dialogue. The emphasis is less on individual psychology than on the archetypes they embody. The politician can’t quite let go of his vehement rancor against Saeed and his kind, which leads to tragedy.
But the great reveal of “Samaritan” is that the doctor’s “kind” is not what viewers may have thought, and the tensions that he navigated have a broader context. It is less a plot twist than a widening of the narrative lens, which asks viewers to review the images, action and dialogue they’ve just seen in a new light. The xenophobia the doctor faced is still there but cast within an urgent new context that affects everyone. But of course, “Samaritan” notes that the solution to such catastrophes won’t apply to everyone equally, despite the gravity and scale of the crisis — leaving Saeed and viewers with much to think about, and perhaps act upon.