My Sister’s Keeper is, to say the least, an emotional roller coaster. Though the sniffles and waterworks abound throughout the movie, director Nick Cassavetes weaves an intricate web of genetic politics, humor, triumph, and passion that leaves you satisfied and inquisitive (not depressed) as the end credits roll.
The story revolves around 11 year old Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) who is suing her parents for the rights to her own body – more or less a limited medical emancipation. Anna was genetically engineered before birth to save the life of her leukemia afflicted sister, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) and has always known that she is a “donor child”. She has been subjected to needles, surgeries, and bone marrow transplants since birth. After 11 years of this, and finding out that Kate now needs one of her kidneys, Anna takes her case to Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin), the best lawyer in the city. Anna’s mother, Sara Fitzgerald (Cameron Diaz), who gave up a career as a lawyer to care for her sick daughter, makes a formidable opponent.
Sara’s crusade to keep her daughter alive is revealed through transitional flashbacks which are executed flawlessly. The narration is distributed among the entire family, which gives you a unique insight into each character. Character development is a huge factor in this film, and is the driving force behind this movie’s powerful emotional connection (hence the need to keep Kleenex in business). This works throughout the entire film except for the ending, which felt unnecessarily drawn out, and gave off an air of audience manipulation versus true emotional connection.
While Diaz, Breslin, Baldwin, and Vassilieva give outstanding performances, the most surprising part was that they didn’t overshadow the lesser known actors. Jason Patric plays the father, Brian, and Evan Ellingson is cast as Jesse, the brother. Both did a phenomenal job at delivering subtle unspoken messages and knowing when to crank up the drama. It was also a pleasant surprise to see Joan Cusack as Judge De Salvo. Her performance really showcased just how seasoned and talented she is.
This adaptation of Jodi Picoult‘s novel carries a fire that will spark new ideas and raise questions that you may not have put much thought into before. It may also sway you from being indifferent on political topics that revolve around ethics and morality. At what lengths are you willing to go to be a good parent, sibling, or child? How far is too far? In order to save a child’s life, would you transgress the rights of another? Can you let go and say goodbye without feeling like you’ve given up? How do you cope if your road to self discovery makes you like yourself less?
My Sister’s Keeper will no doubt join the ranks as an “ultimate chick flick” with movies like Steel Magnolias, Where the Heart Is, and The Notebook. But fellas, take heart. As a person who is not especially enamored with watching “chick flicks”, I can honestly say that everyone can enjoy this movie. My Sister’s Keeper is entirely entwined with delicate balances. It may be on the weepy side, but this film was tackled with plenty of intelligence, tenacity, insight, and clever humor that easily puts it in a league above most of the blockbusters we have seen so far this year.
I give My Sister’s Keeper 4.5 “Pass the Kleenex” out of 5.
By Rachael Edwards