by Rick Grant
Grade: B+ / Rated PG-13 / 109 min
This scenario, adapted and directed by Nick Cassavetes, explores the moral and ethical question of parents having a designer baby to act as spare parts for a sibling who is dying. The story also raises the legal issue of the surrogate sibling’s right to her own body. Based on Jodi Picoult’s novel, Cassavetes deftly balances the legal issues without gushing sentimentality.
From the onset of the story, the viewer knows that without a kidney transplant, the girl, Kate Fitzgerald (Sofia Vassilieva) will surely die. However, the sibling, Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) has hired a lawyer (Alec Baldwin) to sue her parents to gain her right to her own body.
Anna, now 11, is tired of needles and being poked and prodded to save her sister. She feels that’s the only reason she was born, and her mom automatically assumed it was alright with her to be used for spare parts. Mom, Sara Fitzgerald (Cameron Diaz) is so obsessed with saving Kate, she has neglected her other children. But, although the other siblings are resentful of Kate getting all the attention, they love her and do not want to see her die.
Anna’s father Brian Fitzgerald (Jason Patric) sees the injustice of what’s happening but he can’t communicate with Sara, who quit her job as a lawyer to stay home to take care of Kate. So, Sara’s obsession has forced a rift in the family and when Sara is served with Anna’s lawsuit, she freaks out, and is determined to fight it.
Kate, who has been ill with leukemia since she was a baby, is growing weary of the family conflict. It takes all her energy to get through the day. This dilemma is skillfully played by young actress Sofia Vassilieva. Although she is sick, as a teenager, she tries to have a normal life. She even gets involved with another male cancer patient and falls in love for the first time.
Maintaining a delicate balance of drama and reality without becoming maudlin was Cassavetes biggest accomplishment in directing this picture. The cast is superb, especially Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva as the two loving sisters who are caught up in this family conflict.
Sara is determined to win her case and force Anna to give up one of her kidneys. This infuriates her husband Brian and further alienates him from her. He sees Anna’s point and he asks Sara to reconsider taking the matter to court. But, Sara has become neurotic and stubborn, not seeing the big picture.
Of course, the movie debates the morality of giving birth to a child to save their sibling. Most people including me, would condemn this as unconscionable reason to have another child. It’s morally repugnant and damaging to the child’s psyche. It is also wrong in this family dynamic for Sara to pour all her emotional input into saving Kate, and neglecting the other children.
No one would blame Anna for not wanting to be her sister’s source of spare parts. During Kate’s short life of fighting leukemia, she has gained much wisdom and is upset that her illness is breaking the family apart. Yet, she seems helpless to stop it.
The story also deals with a family facing the death of a loved one. How that person can ease their fears. At some point, the dying person reaches peace with death. Now the family has to find their peace with seeing a loved one pass away, which is a natural part of life.
The movie is well written and acted by a stellar cast and doesn’t play on the viewers emotions. Cassavetes presents the story without bias or sentimentality. It’s an entertaining and thoughtful trip to the cinema that will be talked about for days afterwards.
My Sister's Keeper
by Rick Grant