Before getting into my review, allow me to tell a quick story. I'm the type of person who needs absolute silence when watching a movie. I like to completely immerse myself into the experience, forgetting that I'm in a theater watching a film. If so much as one word is uttered, it can completely pull me out of my mindset. In my screening for My Sister's Keeper, two young women behind me were chatting up a storm, getting increasingly annoying as the film went on. I was outraged, literally shaking in my seat. After one polite attempt at quieting them, they persisted on, so I was forced to raise my voice and insist that they cease their incessant banter. They finally did, but any type of emotion the film was trying to convey up to that point was lost in my cloud of anger. But by the end, I was weeping like a little child. My Sister's Keeper didn't only manage to pull me back in, it tugged at my heartstrings and turned my fits of rage into tears of sadness.
Abigail Breslin plays Anna, a girl who has been genetically conceived by her parents to assist her dying sister, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva). As long as she's lived, she has helped Kate by giving her anything out of her body that she needed to stay alive, including painful operations like bone marrow transplants. Now Kate needs a kidney and Anna is the only one that matches her type. Unfortunately, Anna has other plans. She feels that her parents have unjustly used her body throughout her life, so she decides to sue them for its rights. She insists that cutting her open again and again may heal Kate, but damage her in the process. So as Kate withers away, she fights it out with her mother, Sara (Cameron Diaz), in court.
Here's the problem with these types of movies. It's a cheap tactic to have a child with a deathly sickness because it's such an easy target to draw emotion from. It's only natural for us to feel sympathy for a young one who is undeservedly moments away from death and even the most poorly made movies can make us feel that way. The difference here is that it doesn't feel cheap. There's an authentic feel to it that allows you to connect to the characters, which is really the driving force behind the film. I wasn't crying simply because it was a child dying of cancer. I was crying because her peaceful acceptance of death was overwhelmingly powerful. In her words, she doesn't mind that her sickness is killing her, but it's killing her family and she'd rather die than cause burden and pain to the ones she loves.
Without a doubt, there's a touching sadness to the film that really allows us to put life into perspective, while also allowing us to discuss death and accept it as an inevitability. It shows us that it doesn't really matter how we go out, but rather how we spend our time beforehand. In fact, Kate can work as a reminder to us all about that, which is one of the many reasons her character works so well. Another big reason is the actress behind the role, one Sofia Vassilieva, who gives a performance as mesmerizing as I've seen in quite a while. In her first major movie role, Vassilieva delivers an Oscar worthy performance, saddening, yet poignant in her sweeping portrayal of an inches from death young girl who has lived a life dependent on others, thankful for their love, but ready to let go and have them move on with their lives. She's the anchor in this movie.
The film is spliced together through an interweaving timeline, frequently jumping back and forth from the present predicament and important past moments that defined Kate as the person she is today. Through these, you learn of the physical, as well as the emotional pain she has had to go through in her life, which makes it all the sadder to see her clinging onto life in a hospital bed. The interesting thing, however, is that the film is narrated by nearly every character in the movie except Kate. It shows us her experiences firsthand, but we also get different perspectives from the other characters, exploring what they saw, how they felt and why it had an impact on their lives at that moment in time. Even in the midst of controversy and anger, they never lost their love for one another and these narrations worked as a conveyance for that.
Although I hesitate to get so profound as to say the film creates a message about genetic engineering, I do feel the film explores its topics enough to warrant a discussion, and that's a good thing. It doesn't so much answer questions as it does raise them. It asks whether or not genetic engineering someone for a specific purpose is morally right because after all, it's still a person. You can't force them into anything they don't want to do, even if that means it could potentially hurt someone you love. But it also explores the decision of whether or not you should essentially "pull the plug" on a dying loved one. It applauds a mother's desire to keep her child alive no matter what the cost, but asks, when have you gone too far? Eventually, you just have to let them go, no matter how painful it may be. The film certainly won't provide any giant revelation, but it gets you thinking and that's an excellent quality for this type of emotional drama.
I feel like I need to see this movie again, or at least the first half, due to my disgust with the rude couple sitting behind me. I fear I may have missed some vital moments to the story in regards to Kate's journey to her inevitable outcome, one that we all must face sooner or later. But regardless of some people's lack of respect for others, My Sister's Keeper still managed to get my waterworks flowing. When it comes to movies, I'm an openly emotional guy to begin with, but none have touched me this deeply in some time. This isn't a perfect movie, with a few hit and miss scenes sporting questionable dialogue and bad delivery, but the overall product exceeds expectations and manages to make Cameron Diaz relevant again. My Sister's Keeper doesn't disappoint.
My Sister's Keeper receives 4/5