In answer to the obvious question: yes, you are going to need tissues when you see this. And if you’re one of those people who try to hide that you’re crying, don’t even bother. Let go and let flow! There will not be a dry eye in the theater when you go see this film. The real question is: should you bother seeing a movie about a young girl with cancer when there are awesome robots out there? Well if you’re looking for a touching family drama to counteract summer-blockbuster-itis, you might want to consider seeing My Sister’s Keeper.
In the tradition of films like Steel Magnolias (1989), Terms of Endearment (1983) and Six Weeks (1982, remember that one with Mary Tyler Moore and Dudley Moore?) comes the next in Mother/ sick Daughter weepers. I’m not revealing any major spoilers when I say that My Sister’s Keeper is about a family struggling with a child’s fight with cancer. You get that from the commercials. The oldest daughter Kate (played so well by “Medium’s” Sofia Vassilieva) is losing her battle with leukemia. Her parents Sara and Brian (Cameron Diaz and [yeah!] Jason Patric) have opted for an unconventional solution and genetically engineer a sibling to be a perfect donation match. That child, Anna (Abigail Breslin) is now 11 and has decided hire a flashy attorney (Alec Baldwin) to sue her parents for medical emancipation to prevent any further surgeries against her will. It sends the family into a tailspin as the end for Kate draws closer. Sara has to stop her singular quest to save her sick daughter and focus on the bigger picture, saving her family.
I thought this film was thoughtful and well done. The story is told in flashbacks and from different points of view. The whole moral dilemma of creating one child to save another is a fascinating subject and handled smartly by director Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, 2004). Cameron gives a layered performance as the unstoppable Sara. I could totally understand why she was making the decisions she was but was not agreeing with the logic she was using to come to those decisions. Jason Patric is great as David: quiet, concerned and finally pushed to the point of having to confront his wife about how she’s treating all their children. It’s so good to see him on the big screen again. That man does nothing but improve with age!
Abigail Breslin is her usual sensational self. She’s another one of those old-soul child actors that can tend to be creepy after a while. Is it just me or does she sound congested all the time? I wanted her to blow her nose! As I mentioned before Sofia Vassilieva is wonderful as Kate. The character makes this tremendous arc from giggly teen to mature adult, guiding her mother to the inevitable and Sofia handles it masterfully. Evan Ellingson, who’s had a tremendous television career up until now, plays the often forgotten, troubled oldest Jesse. This kid’s got a bright future ahead of him.
Rounding out the cast are two fantastic character actors taking a break from their usual comedic roles. Joan Cusak as Judge De Salvo may very well break your heart. And as the smarmy but brilliant defense attorney Campbell Alexander, Alec Baldwin is strangely adorable.
Let me just reiterate – you WILL cry when you see this film. Hell, I even cry during the trailer! Don’t take your husband/boyfriend. This is a movie to see with your mom, your sister, your daughter. It’s a perfectly fine chick-flick with an interesting element to strike up some post-viewing conversations, assuming of course that you have recovered in a decent amount of time. Try consuming a little chocolate. It might help.