Retro Review: My Sister’s Keeper
Leukemia is not a sexy subject for a film and people do not flock to the cinema to see sick people. But leukemia and other forms of cancer affect so many of our lives you wonder how every other film doesn’t feature cancer patients. You wonder and then you realize: because that would be unbearable. Cancer may be part of our lives but we don’t want it to be and damned be all who remind us of what we’ve lost to it.
My Sister’s Keeper is therefore not a very welcome story. After having been bred solely to manufacture spare parts for her leukemia patient sister Anna sues her parents for the right to her own body. She knows that her sister Kate will not survive without a kidney transplant, a kidney her parents assume will come from Anna, but she refuses to have the operation.
The issues here are huge: What would parents do to save their child? What right do we have to our own bodies? Why should one child be allowed to take over an entire family, putting the other children in second place, just because she’s ill? What are our duties to the terminally ill? Can we fulfill them and still have lives of our own? When is treating the sick selfless and when is it selfish? As we get to know this family of five we begin to understand that nothing is black and white, there are no simple solutions to these issues.
Cameron Diaz does a great job as the mother who’s given up everything to save her daughter. Sofia Vassilieva is astounding as she takes us through the different stages of Kate’s disease. In fact the entire cast is great but these two deserve a special mention. Getting to see into the minds of all in the family is a gift usually restrained to books – and this was a book first, film second – but the voice over manages to be insightful rather than informative. All in all My Sister’s Keeper manages to be very gripping.
Could the pacing be better? Sure. Could the music be used more powerfully? Undoubtedly. Could Abigail Breslin deliver more as Anna? Possibly. Is the character of the brother underdeveloped? A bit. But that doesn’t change the fact that My Sister’s Keeper is a very effective film. The story stays with you and Kate as a character is simply haunting. By the end this family will have you hysterically sobbing if you let them. And that’s a good thing.
Cancer is a part of our lives. It hurts more than we want to admit but it is there and it is looming. It hurts to watch it on the screen but hurting is part of healing. It is through works of art such as this that we begin to come to terms with it.
Final Verdict: A haunting tale depicting the ethics of nursing the sick My Sister’s Keeper sports some fine performances and some very effective writing.