Directed by: Nick Cassavetes
Written by:Jeremy Leven, Nick Cassavetes
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Sofia Vassilieva, Jason Patric, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack
Released: July 30, 2009
Grade: A-

I saw My Sister’s Keeper in a fairly packed cinema and as the closing credits started to roll, the lady seated to my left, who was a complete stranger, apologised for her crying and blubbering.  Even my eyes were a little moist.  It’s just that kind of film.

Based on the novel by Jodi Picoult, I realised early on that this movie was something different.  Anna Fitzgerald (Breslin) is an 11-year-old girl who was brought into this world for an unusual reason.  Anna’s older sister, Kate (Vassilieva), was diagnosed with leukaemia at a very early age.  With no compatible donors in the family to supply bone marrow, Sara and Brian Fitzgerald (Diaz and Patric) made the decision to have another child.  Anna was hence created from a test tube using Kate’s DNA.

For as long as she can remember, Anna herself has undergone numerous medical procedures to help Kate.  She loves her family very much but Anna is tiring of the burden that she carries.  She wants to live a normal existence.  Anna’s true feelings are revealed when asked to donate one of her kidneys to her gravely ill sister.  Anna knows that being one kidney short will affect the quality of her life going forward.  She also realises that the transplant may not even work.

Where does one draw the line in this situation?  It’s a tough choice for an adult yet alone a scared 11-year-old.  Anna approaches a high-profile lawyer named Campbell Alexander (Baldwin) and asks that he help her become “medically emancipated” from her parents.  She wants to be able to make her own decisions about her body and how it is used.  It’s a decision that threatens to divide the family…

Unless you have the hardest of hearts, you’ll need something to wipe your eyes with during much of this film.  Tissues are preferred.  I think it’s a little too depressing at times with its sad songs and down-beat storyline but that’s my only major qualm.  I was really moved by this tale and the quality of the performances.

I hadn’t heard of her before but 16-year-old Sofia Vassilieva (Medium) turns in one of the bravest performances that I’ve seen from a child actor.  She is very sick for much of the film and it’s tough to watch her throwing up and enduring savage nose bleeds.  Even tougher is seeing her reflect on her life knowing in the back of her head that she may not have much longer.  If I were a member of the Academy, I’d be putting her first on my ballot for best supporting actress.   

The whole cast is impressive.  There’s a beautiful scene involving Abigail Breslin (the young girl from Little Miss Sunshine) and the wonderful Joan Cusack (In & Out), who plays the judge at Anna’s hearing.  The two have a one-in-one in the judge’s chambers where they discuss Anna’s decision and the judge’s own daughter.  To quickly name a few more… Cameron Diaz (What Happens In Vegas) is terrific as the over-zealous mother and Jason Patric (Sleepers) is excellent in his performance as the subdued father.

You should be forewarned that My Sister’s Keeper is heavy going.  You’ll be put through the emotional wringer.  It’s one of the real surprises of the year for me and I recommend it highly.