Review of “My Sister’s Keeper”

by Simon on July 30, 2009 · 2 comments

This film – based on the best selling book by Jodi Picoult – starts as an exploration of the ethics of organ-donation and genetic selection, but rapidly disintegrates into a sloppy, unstructured, tear-jerking mess – unclear about who’s story is being told or indeed what the point is. The screen adaptation by Jeremy Leven is the source of much of the problem, but director Nick Cassavetes (who collaborated with Leven on a previous tear jerker, The Notebook) aids and abets, making much of the story feel contrived and manipulated.

Opening with a voice-over, we learn that 11 year-old Anna (Abigail Breslin) was a designed baby, born with the right genetic make-up to help save the life of her older sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two. Behind the difficult decision to use Anna as a source of bone-marrow, stem-cells and body parts for Kate, is the girls’ driven mother Sara (Cameron Diaz) who has sacrificed everything to try and save Kate from dying. But as Kate’s condition deteriorates and another operation looks likely, Anna approaches lawyer Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) to sue her parents for the right to her own body. sisters_keeper.jpg

Flipping back and forth in time as various members of the family share their perspective on things, the film lingers for a long time far from its starting point – taking the shape of a love story as Kate recalls better days and a brief romantic encounter with a patient named Taylor (Thomas Dekker).

There are tender and beautiful moments threaded throughout the film, but as a whole it is a deeply flawed work – neither credibly exploring the legal and ethical tensions that should surely have been the focus of this story, nor dealing – in anything other than the most melodramatically saccharine way – with a family facing the death of a child. Breslin and Vassilieva are brave and credible as the two sisters, but Cameron Diaz is woefully under-directed and can only give us a histrionic, one-dimensional mother.

The film is shot in a permanent haze of soft golden light and features several slow-motion montages accompanied by sentimental songs like Edwina Hayes’ Feels Like Home and Vega 4’s Life is Beautiful.

For those fans of the novel, you may want to heed the frustrated cry that I heard from the back of the cinema as the credits rolled: “that was nothing like the book!”

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

keith July 15, 2013 at 9:09 am

I have to say that i was amazed by the comments of this reviewer,i dont believe that Simon has ever had anybody in his family or a friend suffer from terminal cancer,this is something i have had to go through on 3 occasions and although difficult to watch at times,this is a wonderful film,not only is the acting superb with a great storyline,,it had a great soundtrack with its music and songs,maybe one day Simon,you will realise what a great film MY SISTERS KEEPER is,Keith from england in the uk

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Nicole May 11, 2015 at 2:37 pm

I know this is way old, but I agree so much with the review. I tried to get through “The Notebook” and couldn’t stomach it. If I had known “My Sister’s Keeper” was directed by the same person, I would have saved my money. The only people I know who rave about this movie- and I don’t know that many- are ones that have never read the book. Anyone that I know who has read this book and seen the movie despise the film. Seriously- I know that the book is always better, but there are some film adaptations that are pretty darn good. “My Sister’s Keeper” was not one of them.

I know there are things that are going to be left out from the movies that are in the books. I knew the character Julia and her past relationship with Campbell was going to be taken out just because of time constraints. I knew that Jesse’s struggles and what he was going through were likely to be tossed out as well. So I figured the main story of the book- the debate of whether or not it is right to have one child to save another child from dying- is right or wrong- would be explored. I feel like it was totally ignored. While Sara’s inability to let her child go from this horrible disease is indeed, a part of the story- it is not the MAIN focus of the book. It was, however, the main focus of the movie. And Cameron Diaz just was not the actress to pull off such a heavy topic. I also think Alec Baldwin was a crappy choice for the lawyer. So yeah, the whole theme of the movie was completely different from the book. And they should have stuck with the ending the book has! Spoiler- in the book, it is Anna that dies, not Kate. Anna gets in a car accident right after she is medically emancipated from her parents. because she is in a car with Campbell and he has a seizure while he’s driving, so Kate gets Anna’s kidney and kicks cancers butt and goes on to become a ballerina. I bawled and bawled the whole movie, knowing that Anna was the one that was going to die- and the second I heard the line about Kate dying the next day, my tears shut off. The movie totally changed the message(s) that Jodi Picoult made in her amazing book- one of them being, we should treasure each of our children for the time that we have them- not just the ones that are sick and dying, because the ones that are perfectly healthy, that we are using for ‘spare parts’, just might be the ones to go first.

And I’ve had quite a few people close to me die from cancer. It was awful and it sucked to see them suffer. I still hate this movie. But I guess I set my exectations too high.

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