My Sister's Keeper (12A)



Drama (2009)
109mins US

Starring: Alex Baldwin, Sofia Vassilieva, Evan Ellingson, Cameron Diaz, Jason Patric, Abigail Breslin, Joan Cusack
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Writer(s): Jeremy Leven, Nick Cassavetes
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Brian Fitzgerald and his wife Sara are blissfully happy with their son Jesse and two-year-old daughter Kate. Their lives change forever when they discover that Kate has leukaemia and the couple makes a controversial decision: to conceive another child, a genetic match, in order to save Kate's life. Sara gives up her job as a high-powered attorney to preside over the family and she watches in awe as youngest child Anna forms a close bond with Kate (Sofia Vassilieva). Visits to hospital for various procedures become a normal part of childhood until Anna reaches the age of 11 and announces that she no longer wants to be a guinea pig, hiring lawyer Campbell Alexander to plead her case.

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LondonNet Film Review
My Sister's Keeper

My Sister's Keeper is a moral dilemma for the modern age...

My Sister's Keeper. Photo by Sidney Baldwin. Released by Entertainment Film DistributorsAdapted from Jodi Picoult's heartbreaking bestseller, Nick Cassavetes' film is an emotionally wrought and morally complex story of one family's extraordinary fight to save their own flesh and blood from terrible suffering.

Brian Fitzgerald (Jason Patric) and his wife Sara (Cameron Diaz) are blissfully happy with a son Jesse and two-year-old daughter Kate. Their lives change forever when they discover that Kate has leukaemia, and they make a controversial decision: to conceive another child, a genetic match, to be a blood and bone marrow donor for their sick child. Sara gives up her job as a high-powered attorney to preside over the family, always terrified that the next nosebleed might result in a lengthy hospital stint. She adopts the mantle of supermum with ease yet treats her daughter's illness almost as though it is a courtroom battle to be won. Despite all of the years of pain, Sara watches in awe as youngest child Anna (Abigail Breslin) forms a close bond with Kate (Sofia Vassilieva). Visits to hospital for various procedures become a normal part of the girls' childhood until Anna reaches the age of 11 and announces that she no longer wants to be a guinea pig. After enduring all those years of painful operations to save her sister, who next needs a kidney transplant, the youngster takes her parents to court to sue for the rights to her own body.

My Sister's Keeper. Photo by Sidney Baldwin. Released by Entertainment Film DistributorsAnna hires lawyer Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) to plead her case before Judge De Salvo (Joan Cusack) and potentially tear the entire family apart. Sara's intense focus on getting Kate better, by any means, takes its toll on the rest of the family, especially when she faces the real lawsuit brought by hotshot Campbell. The complex web of relations between each family member - from forgotten son Jesse (Evan Ellingson) to the impenetrable bond between Anna and Kate - is handled sensitively, through a series of voiceovers from each actor. The narration give us an insight into each character's thoughts on the situation but occasionally these sequences, using music and grainy flashback shots to set the mood, badly disrupt the flow of the narrative. Kate's voice is one of the last to be introduced but is perhaps the most poignant, as she reveals, "I don't mind my disease killing me, but it's killing my family too." This is the crux of the film. Despite the 'happy family' footage we see at the start of Cassavetes' picture, each character is struggling under the weight of Kate's dwindling life - and no one more so than the sickly girl herself. When Anna files a lawsuit, she claims she wants 'medical emancipation' and to keep her kidney so she might play sport and eventually have children. Perhaps, however, she has something to hide.

Cassavetes, who won critical acclaim for The Notebook, steers the film just the right side of Hollywood schmaltz with his own brand of naturalism, and manages to keep it light for the most part, despite the heartbreaking story. Diaz is best known as a comedy actress but she gives a competent performance here, especially in feisty exchanges with Baldwin. However, Oscar nominee Breslin once again steals the show as Anna, narrating both the opening and closing scenes. Sixteen-year-old Vassilieva shaved her head for the entire film and the most heartfelt scenes are between her and Breslin, who clearly developed a strong sisterly bond off-set to capture such unconditional love on screen. Fans of the book should expect an entirely different ending and the bizarre addition of Campbell's 'service dog' to lighten the mood.

- Jo Planter


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