My Sister's Keeper (2009)
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Plot: Anna Fitzgerald looks to earn medical emancipation from her parents who until now have relied on their youngest child to help their leukemia-stricken daughter Kate remain alive.
Rating: PG for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, sensuality, language and brief teen drinking.
Some films make us genuinely cry. Others manipulate us to cry. My Sister’s Keeper falls in between those two realms. Adapted from the novel by Jodi Picoult, the film is highly melodramatic and is very much a conventional tearjerker. Director Nick Cassavetes, who directed The Notebook (2004), shows nothing outstanding in terms of direction except that he does coax fantastic performances out of his team of actors and actresses whom are, without question, excellently cast.
Despite having Cameron Diaz, Alec Baldwin, and Abigail Breslin on board the ship, the film’s best performance, however, goes to Sofia Vassilieva who gives a convincingly touching display. She plays Kate, a teenage girl suffering from cancer and whose parents forcibly insist her younger sister to donate a kidney to her in a bid to prolong her life. Breslin plays this younger sister, Anna, who is genetically conceived in a test-tube solely for the purpose of acting as a ‘spare parts supplier’ for her older sister.
Since her birth, Anna had had frequent visits to the hospital and numerous needles inserted into her body to withdraw blood and bone marrow material. She realizes that this cannot go on forever because after all she is entitled to her rights in decision making. Thus, she enlists the help of a kind-hearted lawyer (Baldwin) who helps her to grant medical emancipation from her parents.
My Sister’s Keeper deals with the theme of conflict breaking a family apart. Here, Anna is at war with her resolute mother (Diaz). Even though her father seems to understand the situation, he does not provide an adequate intervention. Her brother, a rebel who sneaks out at night, is frustrated with his life and the emotional state of the family; Kate sees herself as the cause of misery and this despite being miserable for most parts of her life due to her sickness.
Cassavetes allows the drama to unfold at its own pace, and with the aid of appropriately-timed flashbacks, he gives us a narrative that is easy to digest and interpret, thus channeling our attention to the strength of the performances and character development. For once, Diaz shows her acting chops instead of just being a pretty face on screen; Breslin has also matured plenty since her Oscar-nominated turn in Little Miss Sunshine (2006).
My Sister’s Keeper allows us to realize that conflict gives people an opportunity to be self-reflective, and as a result, the prospect of becoming a better person. Cassavetes intends his film to be a study of human interaction in the smallest unit of society – the family. What breaks a family apart? What brings them together? The overarching element suggests the importance of continuous and open communication. My Sister’s Keeper drives this home succinctly, albeit with a trifle too much melodrama.
GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)
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