My Sister's Keeper

Distributed by: New Line Cinema

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            When Anna (Abigail Breslin) was born, she was a blessing for the Fitzgerald family.  Her birth meant that there was hope for her sister, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) who was suffering from Leukemia.  Conceived through in vitro fertilization, Anna would be a 100% match in DNA, bone marrow, etc. and would provide a means for helping Kate survive her battle with cancer.

            For years, Anna endured the constant demands from her which included blood transfusions, bone marrow donations and more.  But when Kate goes into renal failure and needs a kidney, Anna hires a lawyer (Alec Baldwin) to defend her right to control her own body, an act that threatens to tear the already fragile Fitzgerald family apart.

            Based on a novel by Jodi Picoult, My Sisterís Keeper seems to be a fairly straight-forward story about a young girlís desire to be seen by her parents as more than just an organ donor for her sister.  But that only scratches the surface of this tale in which we learn just how damaging cancer can be, not just to the person diagnosed with the disease, but to that personís family as well. 

            Cameron Diaz is excellent as Sara, a former lawyer who gave up her career after Kate was diagnosed with Leukemia.  Losing a child is no easy prospect for any mother, especially when that child has barely had a chance at life.  Diaz does an exceptional job of portraying a woman willing to fight to save her daughter, even if that fight takes her to the extreme of what is morally acceptable to the average individual. 

            Although he is not as visible in this film as Cameron Diaz, Jason Patric is wholly believable as the doting father who loves his children, but realizes that his entire life has been centered around his oldest daughterís illness.  One feels for his character as he struggles to understand what course of action will best serve to save his family.

            Alec Baldwin is interesting as the surprisingly caring high profile attorney who hides a secret of his own in his understanding of this case.  Joan Cusack, a highly under-rated actress, is perfect as the trial judge whose loss of her own teenage daughter is still fresh in her mind at the start of this case.

            But the real stars of this film are Abigail Breslin, Sofia Vassilieva and Evan Ellingson.  For such young actors, each one offers up quite an emotional performance.  Although somewhat in the background, Evan Ellingson portrays quite the tormented teen as brother Jesse Fitzgerald.  Lost in the shadow of his sisterís illness, Jesse feels scared, alone, confused and frustrated in his inability to fight the disease that threatens to tear his family apart.  Abigail Breslin is amazing as Anna, a young girl willing to do just about anything for her sister, no matter what the cost.  Sofia Vassilieva offers up a brilliant performance as Kate, a talented and caring young girl with a desire to live just like any normal teenager, including going to a special dance with her newly found boyfriend.  (For those of you who did not recognize Taylor Ambrose due to the cleanly shaven head, he was portrayed by none other than Thomas Dekker of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles fame.)  As the movie plays out, we discover that Kate is one of the strongest characters in the film, not simply because of her battle with cancerÖbut to tell you more would be to give away the movieís ending, so Iíll keep the rest to myself.

            Nick Cassavetes, the director of the film, is no stranger to its emotional content.  Having directed such films as The Notebook and John Q, Cassavetes has proven that he is quite in tune with human emotion and the lengths one will go to in order to protect their loved ones.  For My Sister's Keeper, Cassavetes offers us a view of each and every character's thoughts and feelings in both a first person and third person perspective, giving the viewer a well-rounded perspective of the broad spectrum of emotions this case involves. 

            Iíd be lying if I said that watching this film wasnít the least bit difficult.  The subject matter is not easy for anyone to handle, especially someone who has seen what cancer can do to an individual and to the family members of those afflicted by the disease.  My Sisterís Keeper is definitely raw with emotion and it would be best if you kept a box of tissues handy while watching this film.  But, although the film is emotional and does have quite a bit of sadness instilled in it, there are quite a few lighthearted moments and the love of a family does eventually shine through, offering hope for the Fitzgeraldsí future despite the pain of their past.

            The DVD version doesnít offer much in the form of extras.  There is the option to view the film in either wide or full screen format.  Fifteen minutes of deleted scenes are available for viewing as well.  I suppose this is adequate enough - the content of the film is so emotional, thatís pretty much all you would want to watch anyways.  Extras become irrelevant at that point.

            All-in-all, My Sisterís Keeper is an emotional story with some standout performances that will require a full tissue box kept handy for adequate movie viewing purposes. 


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