What if you could genetically engineer a sibling to save your dying child’s life? The medical ethics and moral dilemmas of such a decision are explored in Nick Cassavetes’ fascinating new film, “My Sister’s Keeper.” What happens to the “perfect family” when a child is conceived as an organ bank?
When Sara and Brian Fitzgerald’s daughter, Kate, is diagnosed with leukemia at age 5, their doctor suggests in-vitro fertilization, assuring a perfect match for Kate’s future medical needs. Along comes Anna, who eventually donates blood, bone marrow and stem cells, keeping sister Kate alive. But when she’s expected to donate a kidney, Anna seeks out an attorney and files a lawsuit against her parents for “medical emancipation.”
One would expect at this point things would turn ugly, but they don’t. Sara’s relentless drive to keep Kate alive doesn’t diminish her love for everyone else. It simply takes priority. What astonishes Sara is why Anna has suddenly refused to to save her sister’s life. Herein lies a secret, which provides an interesting twist at the end of the film.
I usually skip potential tearjerkers. They tend to play heavily upon emotions in lieu of providing substantive subject matter. But given the calibre of performers participating in this project, I knew that there would be something special about this film. Cassavetes is following in his father, John’s footsteps, creating evocative and emotionally charged movies (i.e. “John Q” “The Notebook”). He never gets maudlin with his audience which would have been the easy path to take in “Keeper.” Instead, he crafts one of the most intelligent and touching films I’ve ever seen.
Back to the cast: “Little Miss Sunshine’s” Abigail Breslin gives an amazingly mature performance as the loving and lovable Anna. Sofia Vassilieva (previously unknown to me) is nothing short of brilliant as Kate, Oscar stuff. Jason Patric underplays the father and it works perfectly. Cameron Diaz, who is over-the-top as mother/monster Sara, reveals a talent unprecedented. But to be totally honest, I was on board to see Alec Baldwin because he’s just great in anything. As the ambulance-chasing attorney with a heart, he had mine.
“My Sister’s Keeper” asks a lot of poignant questions especially given our current political climate. Is it really OK to play around with genetics? Does the end justify the means? And put in the wrong hands, what devastating decisions could be made? The best part about this thought provoking film is that it leaves the answers up to you.
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