Medicine in the Movies Blogathon by Charlene over at Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews was this past weekend and sneaking in my almost kind of late entry is for My Sister’s Keeper. Over ambitious post drafting will eventually backfire one day on me and it did this time. Before I start, I’d like to say sorry to Charlene for the tardiness. Trust me, it was not intentional. As the name indicates, this blogathon is all about medicine in the movies and my thought right away went to this movie adapted from Jodi Piccoult’s book with the same name.
My Sister’s Keeper (2009)
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Cameron Diaz, Sofia Vassileva, Alec Baldwin, Jason Patric, Evan Ellingson, Heather Walquist
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. – IMDB
My Sister’s Keeper is an interesting one to talk about. On the surface, its about a family dealing with their older daughter’s fight to live as their younger daughter fights for her freedom of use of her body that she’s lost. What sounds like a heartless thing to do as this decision abandons her sister from her chance of survival and surprising as a top attorney will do it almost pro bono for her cause because he believes in what she is fighting for. However, behind all the medical battle, its also a highlight on how the family has broken apart in pieces. As everyone focuses on one person in the family, everyone else has needs and desires that are overseen or neglected and the only person that sees this is Kate, while ill still sees clearly what her sickness has caused over the years. What helps with this is that there are narratives of each of the characters to see how they are reacting and their thoughts on what is going on: whether it is about Kate or Anna’s decision to earn medical emancipation. My Sister’s Keeper uses sickness in a family to not only highlight each of their characters but also takes the approach to show us how it can break each other apart or keep them together more and also brings up many questions about who to side for and is there a side in this cause? Of course, nothing is that simple. My Sister’s Keeper, while not delivered quite as effective as the book in my opinion, still manages to bring some decent performances to showcase the story and dilemmas in this situation while letting us learn more about each of these characters.
Perhaps the best way to look at My Sister’s Keeper is to take a look at the performances. Dramas are usually pretty clear cut and the story and message is here and it all relies on these performances. First of all, the parents are played by Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric. Cameron Diaz has had her ups and downs (also my opinion) in her movie roles however she does capture the overprotective mom very well. She is focused and committed to keep Kate alive, however she also does play the mother who is much stronger that she does seem to have forgotten about her other children. She defends this by saying that she takes care of the family but Kate is the one that is most in need right now. On the other hand, while not exactly rejecting his wife’s choices, Jason Patric plays the father who is much softer. Being a firefighter and the only person still bringing money to the family, he also isn’t home as much but he somehow notices a little more of Anna’s life and sees her charm just as much as her older daughter however he does neglect his son who in this mess is the one that gets lost in the mix the most. Jason Patric’s role isn’t very big in this and his father role only appears in glances and observations of the situation. Cameron Diaz does deliver quite a believable performance as the mom here that you can dislike for her neglecting the need of both of her daughters or playing favorites with Kate but then in the situation, the question her character brings is: where is the balance? When is the time to let go? Will you ever want to let go of any chance to save your children?
My Sister’s Keeper came on my radar because of Abigail Breslin. I’ve expressed on multiple occassions how I think she is a brilliant young actress with a ton of potential. As a child actor, she’s done many great performances and as Anna, she is no different. The script writes her character as a young girl who understands what she is asking for and wants to be able to live her life. The stance she brings is that while she was conceived to help her sister, she also has the right to be acknowledged and to be able to live freely and not have to be careful and limit herself. Does that make her selfish for choosing to do that? Should she feel guilt for not helping? Why is she suddenly doing all this? Helping her in this cause is another not very big in terms of screen time but important character nonetheless played by Alec Baldwin, the attorney that decides to help her because he is saddened by her reports and with a little personal cause that makes him want to fight for Anna’s fight for the freedom of her own body. He helps bring to the table the questions that matter in this family whether everyone has been taken care of. In fact, perhaps this also brings a highlight on the judge in this movie, Joan Cusack who feels like a character that could have been developed more however she brings the angle of someone who has already suffered loss looking into the Fitzgerald family.
While the family and the whole case of medical emancipation plays a great deal of part here, there is no doubt that the main person in focus is the narration of Kate. The timeline of My Sister’s Keeper hops by and forth quite a bit and the first time watching this, its easy to get lost in it a little. However, Kate, played by Sofia Vassileva is quite a powerful one. Perhaps playing a sick child automatically gives some pity points however we can sense the true despair of her pain as she deals with leukemia and how she can’t express or connect with others even the ones that love her the most. However, she does find someone who sees her for who she needs in Taylor (played by Thomas Dekker), another young patient dealing with cancer who eventually becomes her boyfriend and makes her see the world in a much more colorful way despite it not in reality.
Overall, The Sister’s Keeper is full of decent to powerful performances and that comes in building and developing characters well. However, there are many story lines and tangents here and this is where we lose a little focus as some characters don’t get the development they need and at times the timeline can be a little confusing to follow. But, it does deliver a lot of questions to truly ponder. There is perhaps no right answer to any of this but the true double edged sword in this whole affair is learning when to let go no matter how hard it is. My Sister’s Keeper is a powerful book and did a decent job at adapting it into the movie. The ending particularly as everything comes to light is a bittersweet sort of ending that did make me tear up a little. I like movies that make us question these hard decisions and the right and wrong of any situation to see that there is really no clear cut answer.
Have you seen My Sister’s Keeper or read the book?