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“My Sister’s Keeper”- (Chris)
Chris Pandolfi
Studio: Warner Brothers
Release Date:
Special Features:

Widescreen and full screen formats / deleted scenes ***


MI began by expecting a sappy melodrama and ended by clutching a tear-stained napkin. “My Sister’s Keeper” is a beautiful, heartfelt story that’s ambitious enough to be about more than a teenager sick with cancer; it presents us with a series of moral issues that have no easy solutions. We do expect to laugh and cry (mostly the latter), but we don’t expect to think – at least, not as deeply as this. ***

Of all the issues presented in this film, the main one is an eleven-year-old girl who was engineered rather than conceived. She’s a perfect genetic match to her older sister, who suffers from a rare form of leukemia and often needs spare quantities of blood, marrow, and organs to keep her alive. The younger sister believes she has rights to her own body and subsequently sues her parents. In legal terms, she files a suit to be medically emancipated. ***

Her name is Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin), who by all accounts would be a normal girl were it not for the fact that her sister, Kate (Sophia Vassilieva), is slipping further and further away. Their mother, Sara (Cameron Diaz), handles the situation as best she can, having given up her career as a lawyer to spend all her time at home. Naturally, she only thinks about keeping her daughter alive, which is why she has no qualms about using her other daughter’s body for spare parts. ***

She feels, quite understandably, that subjecting Anna to medical procedures isn’t as hard as the thought of burying Kate. But in all those years, did she ever ask Anna how she feels about her role? Does the fact that she’s a minor mean she doesn’t have a say in this? Hoping to convince her parents that she does, she appeals to Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin), a defense attorney with a 91% success rate. He takes her case for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. ***

How does the rest of the family deal with this? How does anyone deal with the realities of a terminal illness in the family? Sara’s husband, a firefighter named Brian (Jason Patric), is beginning to question the idea of conceiving a child for medical purposes. “We went against nature,” he solemnly muses during one of the film’s many moments of interior dialogue (the entire family given the chance to speak at least once). But there’s more to it than that; it’s gotten to the point where he no longer wants to drag Anna kicking and screaming to a hospital and hold her down while the nurses sedate her. After all, there’s only so much of that a father can take. ***

The middle child, their son Jesse (Evan Ellingson), is all but ignored, and while he never rebels, his solitary existence at dark bus stops make it obvious he’s seriously considering it. And why not? It would be a sure fire attention getter. Goodness knows it took his parents long enough to realize that there was an explanation for his academic problems. ***

And what about Kate? It seems that whenever we focus on someone’s illness, we tend to forget that there’s still a person underneath it all. Sara is so driven to save Kate’s life that she never pauses to consider how Kate really feels about herself or her condition. This is understandable; as a mother, Sara doesn’t want to go through the pain of burying a child. ***

But at what point is it clear that there’s nothing left to hold onto? Is there ever a time when it’s better to let someone go, knowing it was only a matter of delaying the inevitable? “I don’t mind the cancer killing me,” Kate says, “but it’s killing my family.” Then again, there is the part of her that wanted nothing more than to live the life of a normal teenager. She should be able to go shopping, hang out with friends, and date. Flashback sequences show her falling in love with another cancer patient, Taylor Ambrose (Thomas Dekker), who does whatever he can to make Kate feel better. **

I’m usually wary of movies like this, and that’s because they’re inherently manipulative. What makes “My Sister’s Keeper” far better than the average tearjerker is that it doesn’t exactly manipulate; rather, it suggests, and it does so at a subtler, more believable level. I suppose it’s natural to question certain scenes after the fact, but when you’re right in the middle of it, you let it happen. It’s hard not to given the maturity of the story, the intensity of the performances, and the believability of the dialogue. By the end of the film, I guarantee you there will not be a dry eye in the house. **

Fortunately, this is a film that earns its heavy-handedness. We’re not being forced to watch a shameless melodrama – we’re being asked to engage in an ethical dilemma and determine for ourselves what was done right and what wasn’t. ***

Special Features:

Special Features: In addition to presenting the film in both its original 2.40:1 widescreen format and a 1.33:1 full screen format, this DVD includes over fifteen minutes of deleted scenes. It also features Dolby 5.1 Digital sound. ***

Final Words:

Is it right to conceive a child for donor purposes? Is it right for a healthy individual to deny a sick individual access to necessary organs? Is there a point at which modern medicine can go too far? What I think and feel really doesn’t matter. It only matters what you think and feel. “My Sister’s Keeper” is powerful, intelligent, and incredibly moving, as I should have known it would be.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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