A new spin on the disease of the week Lifetime movie has been scripted by Jeremy Leven and Nick Cassavetes (based on the best-selling novel by Jodi Picoult) in My Sister’s Keeper. Instead of just tossing about how a family copes with a sick or dying loved one, this adds in a twist of also having a genetically engineered child whose sole purpose is to donate organs to help the ailing sibling.
More importantly, the film tackles how the family copes when said donator sibling decides she no longer wants to be harvested for body parts. That’s the situation Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) finds herself in — for 11 years she’s been prodded and poked, all for the grand purpose of keeping her cancer-stricken older sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) alive. But when she’s asked to donate a kidney, she’s had enough. She instead seeks counsel from lawyer Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) for what amounts to a medical emancipation. Mother, Sara (Cameron Diaz), isn’t exactly pleased with Anna’s decision and she lets her know in no uncertain terms.
Of course, there are tears to be shed by those with (and possibly without) soppy hearts but director Nick Cassavetes tries to keep the focus of My Sister’s Keeper on the characters and their struggle to accept Kate’s dire situation and Anna’s difficult decisions rather than look for easy ways to tug on the viewers emotional strings. On this front, he does an admirable job. He pans from past to present — showing the better and the worse times — while giving equal time to all involved. This method of storytelling breaks up the linear and quite possibly what would have been a “ho-hum, seen it before” trajectory to the movie and allows all actors ample footing to bring forth their best stuff.
And they do.
Jason Patric, regains some footing from past acting regressions, with a strong performance as the father, Brian. Seeing both sides of the argument, he exhibits a quiet authority — seeking a middle ground between both mom and daughter. Sofia Vassilieva, in what basically amounts to her first major film, absolutely embodies the role of a young girl who has accepted the sad and cruel hand dealt to her. Abigail Breslin continues her meteoric rise as one of the more talented young actresses in the industry today (even though I thought she misstepped with Nim’s Island) with a demanding performance. The surprise of the bunch is Cameron Diaz. Not exactly known for taking on the tough roles, she shows in My Sister’s Keeper that she’s got some range to her. Allowing some real emotion out, Diaz captures completely Sara, a woman so consumed by her desire to keep her daughter alive that she blinded to the irreparable damage she’s doing to her family.
Melodramatic movies that deal with mortality (or is i morbidity?) are generally not my cup of tea, but it’s hard not to applaud when they’re done this well. Clap, clap. My Sister’s Keeper is one I won’t mind watching again with the wife.