Although it was in release for a short fifteen weeks, My Sister’s Keeper managed to drum up a healthy amount of business, making nearly $80 million worldwide. Considering the film cost only $30 million to make, it was a definite success in receipts, but critics were strongly divided over just how good this film actually was. With strong performances by all actors and actresses involved, it’s hard to deny the tear jerking nature of Nick Cassavetes’s adaptation of the novel didn’t elicit a whole series of emotional responses from the viewer…for better or worse.
Sara and Brian Fitzgerald’s life with their young son and their two-year-old daughter, Kate, is forever altered when they learn that Kate has leukemia. The parents’ only hope is to conceive another child, specifically intended to save Kate’s life. For some, such genetic engineering would raise both moral and ethical questions; for the Fitzgeralds, Sara in particular, there is no choice but to do whatever it takes to keep Kate alive. And what it takes is Anna. Kate and Anna share a bond closer than most sisters: though Kate is older, she relies on her little sister–in fact, her life depends on Anna. Throughout their young lives, the sisters endure various medical procedures and hospital stays–just another part of their close-knit family’s otherwise normal life. Sara, a loving wife and mother who left her career as an attorney to care for her daughter, is sometimes lost inside the single-minded caregiver she has become in her efforts to save Kate. Her strong, supportive husband, Brian, is often rendered powerless and passive by his wife’s strength and determination. And their only son, Jesse, drifts, at times all but forgotten as Kate and Anna take center stage. Until Anna, now 11, says “no.” Seeking medical emancipation, she hires her own lawyer initiating a court case that divides the family and that could leave Kate’s rapidly failing body in the hands of fate.
From the title alone you know you’re not going to leave this movie with dry eyes, so I’ll just skip past the obvious point that this film will likely make you cry (and not in a subtle way…it’s a pretty big simultaneous slap to the face and punch to the gut). But sad story aside the film brings up a whole lot of interesting ideas and pairs them with interesting characters. There are various stories and angles explored in the film, but they all revolve around the central character, Kate, played by Sofia Vassilieva. As described in the above synopsis her illness is taking its toll, but Kate rarely shows any real signs of weakness.
It’s a very emotionally charged film, as one can expect, but there were still elements of it I found to be slightly disorienting. The main problem I had with the film was Cameron Diaz, whose motives for doing what she did were painfully obvious, yet at the same time I rarely bought into her character. There is something about Diaz in general that is too youthful; a compliment to her, sure, but when she’s put in a role like she has here I just never really believe it. She works better as a big sister for some reason; a stereotype she’s probably working to get out of, but nonetheless I just didn’t feel all that moved by her plight, as dire as it was, simply because I never believed her character to begin with.
Then there’s Alec Baldwin’s character who you want to hate for some reason, but never quite do (probably because of the dog). I also felt the epilepsy portion of his character was tacked on a bit; I think it would’ve worked better in the book, but here it’s kind of just dropped on our lap with little foreshadowing. In fact, the whole film was pretty light on just letting things slowly play out. Rarely did it dwell until the very end, although the flashback story with Thomas Dekker (of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles fame) was really probably the best bit of character development in the entire film, as both he and Vassilieva’s characters really seemed to connect.
The rest of the film was pretty much as you’d expect; the beach sequence was nice and it was also quite nice that the film went out with a relatively positive ending, even if it was a bit odd to see them “move on” after what seemed like a relatively short period of time after Kate’s death. It was also interesting that the movie shifted focus onto Kate so much more than the book did, which was mainly about Anna (Abigail Breslin).
In the end the film was definitely moving and enjoyable, yet it just seemed too systematic at times. Almost like it was something meant to be stretched out a bit more, even if there was no extra story to be told. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely dramatic and heart-string tugging moments…but there was just something a little too methodical about the construction of the film. I’m not sure how to even describe it other than it didn’t feel organic or flow naturally…it just seemed to hit specific marks at specific times. I guess it almost felt like a cliff notes version of the story in some way.
Overall the film is filled with strong performances by all involved and that lone is reason to Recommend it. I doubt you’ll come back for repeat viewings, but it is a very emotional and sometimes thought provoking film, as it gives a very interesting legal perspective to the whole idea that is presented in the film.
Warner releases My Sister’s Keeper in a standard Elite Blu-ray case that houses both the single disc Blu-ray as well as a digital copy. On the outside of the case is a standard cardboard o-ring with nothing special (no embossing or foil reflection, just a mirror image of what’s underneath it). As with most Warner titles the movie auto-starts, so the menu is pop-up and pretty basic and brief in structure.
Video is a VC-1 encoded transfer that brings Cassavette’s sometimes dreamy visuals out quite beautifully. It’s a little soft at times, but the beach sequence especially is quite nice to behold. Other than that, however, it’s a pretty basic world in terms of visual stimulations, so the cold walls of the hospital versus the warm tones of the home are mixed throughout the transfer with fairly strong results. It’s not a flawless transfer, but it’s definitely very nice to look at. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is very laid back which is to be expected from a dialogue driven film. There are moments in which the surrounds kick in (and even the LFE) but they’re few and far in-between. Which is fine as this is the last movie I’d expect to make use of a home theater set up. It just doesn’t need to.
Extras are brief but include:
Behind the Scenes
From Picoult to Screen
The additional and behind the scenes pieces are pretty cookie cutter and forgettable, but the “Picoult” piece is a great inclusion. I always love to hear about the adaptation process, especially when it concerns a story like this. Granted I could just go to Wikipedia to read comparisons and such but it’s always nice to hear it straight from those involved in the actual process.
Overall the extras are light and the film will likely be only worth one viewing for most so this is a strict Rental. There’s not much to come back for on a second viewing, so you’ll likely be done with this one as soon as you eject the disc.
My Sister’s Keeper is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.