These days anyone can make a movie, be it a fictional narrative or a documentary. Pushing this line of thinking further — documentaries are not reserved for the rich and famous, they can be made about anyone. This includes any child with an inspirational story. One such story is highlighted in Lex and Zach Read’s documentary, Bowen’s Heart.
The title refers to 10-year-old Bowen Hammitt. Born on September 9, 2010, the tiny infant suffered from hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). As a result, the left side of his heart was severely underdeveloped in utero, forcing the right side of his heart to perform double duty and pump his oxygen-poor blood on its own. The condition left Bowen in a weakened state, needing oxygen treatments continuously and unable to play at the physical level as his friends.
His parents, Matt and Sarah, had very few options to ensure a “normal” life for Bowen. The choice was either a heart transplant or a series of surgeries. They chose the latter. The first surgery took place five days after his birth, and Bowen suffered a stroke and cardiac arrest during the procedure. Bowen miraculously survived and was told he wouldn’t live past five years old.
Bowen’s second open heart surgery was the following year, and he breezed through it with flying colors. Bowen’s Heart follows Bowen in what hopefully will be his third and final surgery just before his tenth birthday.
“The first surgery took place five days after his birth, and Bowen suffered a stroke and cardiac arrest…”
The heart of the documentary is the Hammitt family journey and the trials and tribulations they went through over the first nine years of Bowen’s life. He was diagnosed with HLHS while Sarah was pregnant, and she was given the option to abort. But she chose to go through with her pregnancy, praying to give her unborn son at least one day of life. She made the right choice.
The documentary is comprised of a series of interviews with Matt, Sarah, and Bowen — albeit most of his interviews are about the young boy being a kid. Along with friends and family and a lot of videos, Bowen’s Heart is the profile of a brave little child. Your heart will melt all over the place in sloppy puddles.
Where the documentary stands out is its cinematography. Practically every shot is treated like a work of art. Directors Lexi and Zach Read refuse to shoot anything in a conventional way. Several amazing shots of Bowen are backlit, using light to paint his silhouette. The camera is placed right at his level when he walks down a hallway. In other words, this is not your typical talking-heads documentary.
On top of the look of the film, Bowen’s Heart finds great inspiration in Matt and Sarah. Their story is for parents who find themselves with very sick children and hope to find some strength and hope. Matt is also an artist; his music is all over the film. Some may see this as sappy, but Matt and Bowen collaborate on a song, which the child sings at a gathering to honor and pray for him. This song can be purchased on the film’s website.
Bowen’s Heart is about hope in a world that feels hopeless. Bowen’s story is beautiful, inspiring, and heartwarming. Let us hope we never give up on our children.
"…about hope in a world that feels hopeless."