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Courtesy of Montana Film Office

My Sister’s Keeper

Heartfelt story spins a web of human bonds and then delicately undoes them

By Drew Halfnight

My Sister’s Keeper
Directed by Nick Cassavetes, starring Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin, Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric
(Montana Film Office)

“I wanna sue my parents for the right to my own body,” announces an 11-year-old girl near the beginning of My Sister’s Keeper, a film about letting go of loved ones — and their organs.

The girl, Anna, has been genetically engineered to provide stem cells for her 13-year-old sister, Kate, who was diagnosed with promyelocytic leukemia as an infant. But as she comes of age, and as the transplants and transfusions become more numerous and onerous, Anna wants to keep her kidneys to herself.

She hires star attorney Campbell Alexander to mount the case against her parents, firefighter Brian and former lawyer Sara , who gave up her practice to care for Kate and is ferocious about prolonging her older daughter’s life.

The film skips somewhat disjointedly in time from the revelation of Kate’s illness to a teen romance between Kate and a fellow cancer patient, and from the legal drama in the courtroom of Judge De Salvo to the hospital room during Kate’s final weeks.

Director Nick Cassavetes has a singular talent for tear-jerking. Like his 2004 romance The Notebook, this film spins a web of human bonds then delicately undoes them. But where The Notebook is carried aloft by the romantic vision of its male lead, My Sister’s Keeper seems resigned to a more humble fate. We glimpse images of levity — a soap bubble riding warm air, a leaping kite, a child tossed up by a trampoline — but we sense that gravity will win this one.

Fans of the 2004 Jodi Picoult novel upon which the film is based have complained bitterly about changes to the story’s ending, not without reason. As a result of the adaptation, we get skimpy treatment of the movie’s most attractive character. Sofia Vassilieva sparkles as the soulful teenager who chooses to die only after helping everyone else live a little more.

Author's photo
Drew Halfnight is a father, journalist and high school teacher in Toronto.
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