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"My Sister's Keeper"
© 2009 Warner Bros

Director: Nick Cassavetes
Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin, Jason Patric, Sofia Vassilieva, Joan Cusack, Emily Deschanel, Evan Ellingson
RunTime: 1 hr 49 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.mysisterskeepermovie.com/

Opening Day: 22 October 2009


Kate and Anna are sisters who share a bond closer than most: though Kate is older, she relies on her little sister—in fact, her life depends on Anna.

Sara and Brian Fitzgerald’s near-idyllic life with their young son, Jesse, and two-year-old daughter, Kate, is forever altered by the heartbreaking news that Kate has leukemia.  The shocked parents’ one hope is to conceive another child, specifically intended to save Kate’s life.  For some, such genetic engineering would raise both moral and ethical questions; for the Fitzgeralds, Sara in particular, there is no choice but to do whatever it takes to keep Kate alive.  And what it takes, is Anna.

Throughout their young lives, the sisters endure endless medical procedures and hospital stays—over and over, again and again—becoming just another part of the family’s otherwise happy life.  Sara, a loving wife and mother who left her career as an attorney to care for her daughter, is often lost inside the single-minded zealot she has become in her efforts to save Kate.  Her strong, supportive husband, Brian, has become stoic and distant, rendered powerless and passive by his wife’s strength and determination.  And their only son, Jesse, a teenager, drifts almost unnoticed, all but forgotten as Kate and Anna take center stage.

Until Anna, now 11, suddenly says “no.”  Hiring her own lawyer, she sets off a court case that divides the family and that could leave Kate’s rapidly failing body in fate’s hands.

“My Sister’s Keeper,” at once heart-wrenching and heartwarming, reveals surprising truths that challenge everyone’s perceptions of family love and loyalty and gives new meaning to the definition of healing.  The film is based on the bestselling book from Jodi Picoult.

Movie Review:

It is never easy to talk about death; conversely the topic of life often is a much easier one to broach. But life and death are undeniably just two sides of the same coin, and one must come after the other. "My Sister’s Keeper" is at first glance a film about death- and if death is a difficult subject, then that of a child’s death must be even more challenging.

The child at the heart of this film is Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), diagnosed at a young age with leukaemia and who has been battling the disease ever since. To save her life, her parents, Sara (Cameron Diaz) and Brian (Jason Patric), conceive another daughter, Anna (Abigail Breslin), by genetic engineering to be a perfect donor of blood, marrow and what other material might be needed to save Kate’s life. But when she’s called to donate a kidney to save Kate’s life, Anna surprises her parents by hiring attorney Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) to sue her parents for 'medical emancipation'.

Anna’s ethical dilemma is where director Nick Cassavetes begins his adaptation of the best-seller by Jodi Picoult. Imagine being told that your beautiful little girl of five has cancer- Mom quits her job as a lawyer to stay home to take care of her little princess, and Daddy stoically puts on a brave front to keep his family together when you can tell he is just as agonized. Imagine being told that your younger sister is sick- Mom and Dad suddenly place all their attention upon her, and every day becomes a day lived with anxiety and foreboding of what may happen.

And imagine being told that you were brought into this world to save the life of your older sister, that you were born because of your sister’s condition, and if you refuse to give yourself to her, she will most certainly die. Through each of his characters’ individual voice-over narrations, Cassavetes lets each member of the family give his or her own unique perspective on how this disease has defined, and perhaps even distorted, their lives.

But more than just another tearjerker, Picoult’s story also poses an all-too relevant modern dilemma. Just because they could have, should Sara and Kate have engineered a child to save their daughter? Does a child have rights to her own body when her parents decide to subject her to invasive medical procedures? Are our laws sufficient to ensure this? Tough as it is to admit is, this day and age is one where the possibilities of medical technology are leaps away from ethical debate and legal safeguards on what can and should be done to save a life.

No doubt these are difficult questions to answer- and it is easy to assume that the screenplay by Jeremy Leven and Nick Cassavetes’ (who also adapted Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook together) sidesteps them. But what Cassavetes’ film does is to point towards the very origin of this present dilemma- our perennial anxiety with death. It is this anxiety that fuels our relentless quest to conquer death and to prolong life, when it is perhaps better (and also inevitable) to accept the inevitabilities of life itself.

The beauty of "My Sister’s Keeper" is how persuasively it makes this point- first through Kate’s zest for life, especially her romance with a fellow cancer patient, and second through the movie’s heartbreaking emotional climax (which for readers of the book, you might be glad or upset to know that Cassavates has modified from its more shocking twist ending). And thanks to outstanding performances from the ensemble cast, the film never loses the emotional impact it rightfully possesses.

From a movie about death, "My Sister’s Keeper" transforms into a film about life- the fragility of life, the value of life and indeed, the very definition of life. The sooner we learn to come to terms with death, the sooner we recognise better the meaning of life. The old adage goes that we should live our life as if each day were our last; "My Sister’s Keeper" will let it be known that we should also treasure the people around us as if each day were their last.

Movie Rating:

(Rare is a film that is as emotionally powerful and thought-provoking as this)

Review by Gabriel Chong


. Personal Effects (2008)

. The Secret Life Of Bees (2008)

. In Her Shoes (2005)

. The Notebook (2004)

. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl DVD (2008)


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