- Released Internationally on 26/06/09
- Released in Malta by KRS on 01/07/09
In a nutshell
Based on the novel by bestselling author Jodi Picoult, this heart-wrenching drama about the rather unconventional way that a closely-knit family handles the terminal illness of one of its members is packed with powerful performances, a moving story and a number of important issues.
Like the book, the film starts with the narration of Anna (Abigail Breslin, proving that her star turn in Little Miss Sunshine was no fluke) who calmly explains how her birth was no accident – she was engineered by her parents and doctors so as to be a perfect genetic match for her elder sister. Thus starts a traumatic childhood of blood donations, bone marrow transplants and various other procedures which Anna goes through in order to help treat her sister, who has a rare form of leukaemia. Then, at age 11, she seems to have had enough, and trots off to a high-powered attorney to sue her parents for the right to her own body, and refuses to donate the kidney that will save her sister’s life.
Despite this shocking turn of events, there seems to be no love lost between sisters. The balding but still smiling Kate (impressive newcomer Sofia Vassilieva) seems to take everything in her stride, and is possibly the only person holding it together as her illness brings her family tumbling down. In a series of flashbacks we meet the earlier Kate and join her on the emotional highpoints of her seemingly all-too-short life, including small doses of love and laughter amidst higher doses of hospitals and drugs.
With her every step of the way is her mother, brought vividly to life by an extremely talented Cameron Diaz. It’s a relief to see her shine in roles like this and Being John Malkovich, which are often forgotten amongst her flashier roles like Charlie’s Angels. Giving up her job, most of her life and possibly her marriage, Sara is determined to stop at nothing to keep her daughter alive, and cannot imagine why her other daughter would do such a horrific thing as sue her and put her sister at risk. Her journey and change over the course of the film is written, acted and handled wonderfully and convincingly.
The sadly underused Jason Patric (Narc, Sleepers) is Brian, the silent but determined father who works in the shadows to keep his fragile family together, and seems to be the one who truly knows what’s best for them. His devotion to his daughter sometimes leaves his son Jesse (Evan Ellingson – 24, CSI: Miami) in the cold, but the troubled teenager proves essential in the film’s resolution.
Once again, it’s a joy to watch Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock, The Cooler) in action. The revitalised star brings zest and charisma to the delicate role of the rich attorney who decides to take on the legal case. His character’s brief but major role also provides just the right touches of humour, when they are most needed. He shares the commanding court scenes with Judge De Salvo (Joan Cusack – In & Out, Working Girl, Arlington Rd.) whose painful history puts her in an ideal situation to deftly manage this life-and-death case.
Weepy but wonderful
Director and co-writer Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, John Q) is a master at making the audience reach for the tissues, but rarely at the expense of the pace and realism of the plot. Apart from a few changes to the ending, he manages to bring the spirit of the book to the big screen gracefully and colourfully. I’m quite sure that the scenes of Kate enjoying her first date and dance, as well as various other key moments in the film, are enough to cause a lump in the throat of even the toughest Saw fan. Some scenes might seem like extended Grey’s Anatomy sequences, with gentle voiceover and pensive ballads in the background, but it’s excusable considering the human tragedy at hand.
In the end
Emotionally draining human dramas might not be your idea of a summer night at the cinema, but miss this at your own peril. Very often the saddest films are the best ones, and this is definitely one of my picks for the year so far. Great acting all around and a story that offers enough surprises to keep us involved are the key to this film’s appeal. Depressing as the subject matter may sound, the film tackles extremely important ethical questions about quality of life, the medicalisation of illness, and the process of saying goodbye. And whether we like it or not, these are issues that are somehow present in everybody’s lives. The most moving release of the year so far.
http://www.apple.com/trailers/newline/mysisterskeeper/ (High-res QuickTime)