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Review: My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

Directed by: Nick Cassavetes

Premise: A girl (Abigail Breslin) sues her parents for medical emancipation so she does not have to give a kidney to her leukemia-stricken sister (Sofia Vassilieva).

What Works: My Sister’s Keeper has some very strong performances by Abigail Breslin as the daughter seeking medical emancipation, Sofia Vassilieva as her cancerous sister, and Cameron Diaz as their mother. These three women are given the best material as the story puts all three characters through the ringer and each actress delivers in their performance. The film takes a slightly different approach from other cancer stories; many of these films start with life before the disease and track the character’s progress adjusting to life under new circumstances. My Sister’s Keeper begins with cancer already a part of family life and then focuses on more particular things and in some cases more difficult issues, such as the younger sister’s right to control her body versus her obligation to the family, instances in which medical treatment becomes less about the patient and more about the caregiver, and how lengthening life may comes at the cost of the quality of life. These are some very heavy themes and the film handles them well, balancing them out and in some cases using them to foil or complicate one another. 

What Doesn’t: My Sister’s Keeper uses a lot of montage sequences, showing the family at delicate moments and underscoring it with predictably sentimental music and voiceovers right out of a Hallmark card. These scenes don’t accomplish much and director Nick Cassavetes gets rather self-indulgent with them.

Bottom Line: My Sister’s Keeper is a very strong film with some terrific acting. Although it is guilty of slipping into sentimentality it also applies some new ideas to the cancer story that are thoughtful and provide some new insights.

Episode: #246 (July 12, 2009)