Often, documentaries surrounding a rare and incurable disease are contrived and have the specific goal to make their audiences feel bad and moved to action. HBO’s Life According to Sam doesn’t subscribe to any of those tropes, and doesn’t stoop to cheap tricks to garner sympathy.

Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns learned that their two-year-old son, Sam, had progeria back in 1998. Progeria is extremely rare – only 300 cases have been reported in the world. It’s a progressive aging disorder that weakens its victims every day. Sam, though, has outlived his expectancy, as most kids with the affliction pass from a heart attack or a stroke aged – on average – 13.

It’s a morbid subject, but HBO approached the doc with both style an honesty, which culminated in an immensely watchable, heart-warming but not patronising piece. It also highlights just how important Gordan and Scott Bern’s research was for both their child as the field of medicine.

“The story of these efforts, which have produced promising results, is itself remarkable, though nothing in this documentary equals the portrait of the unforgettable son they produced,” remarks Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal.

“[It] is remarkable in the ways it mimics Sam's guiding principle and spirit. Although it has a lot to tell us about the science of genomes and the rigors of FDA approval, it doesn't necessarily want you to feel sorry or outraged or moved to act,” says Hank Stuever of the Washington Post.

The Los Angeles Times put it, simply: “This is the straightforward story of a family facing adversity head-on and making inroads against a rare disease,” while Variety, similarly, say: “A straightforward, solidly crafted inspirational tale that should appeal to quality broadcasters.”

HBO’s quality and respect for high standards of broadcasting have come through in this documentary, which, according to the critics, is well worth a watch.

Life According To Sam PosterLife According To Sam premiered on the 21st