Those who have shed many a tear over Jodi Picoult’s bestseller, My Sister’s Keeper are in for a disappointment when they watch Nick Cassavetes’s version of the tale. The fault does not lie in the plot, performance or casting but at the climax of the tale which has been changed by the film team to make it less heart wrenching.
My Sister’s Keeper, the movie, centers on a hostage situation of a different vibe. This time round it is an 11-year-old girl who is incessantly pressured by her parents to donate blood, bone marrow, and even a kidney to postpone the inevitable death of her leukemic older sister, Kate, for whom she is a rare blood match. Finally at the brink of entering her teenage years Anna decides to take matters, and the right to her body, in her own hands by suing her parents for the decisions that they have made to sacrifice her health to keep her terminally ill sister alive.
Though the film seems to religiously follow the novel in most incidents the changes are evident towards the end of the story. Picoult’s novel sees Anna as the sacrificial lamb which saves Kate while the film’s less emotional ending shows Kate’s demise, leaving a handful of beautiful memories with her family. However the filmmakers have made the movie in such a manner so that Julia’s, Campbell’s love interest and one of the main characters in the original tale, absence is not conspicuous.
The audience’s emotions sway from one character to the other as each of their hardships comes to light. From the overlooked Jesse to the seizure prone Campbell, each character wins the audience’s compassion and sentiments at some stage. The voice-overs are appropriately inserted into the tale so that each person has his or her say, much like the trial taking place at the heart of the story. One of the most brilliant sequences is in the episodes which involve Kate and Taylor Ambrose. The moment when Kate finds love with a boy who is faced with similar circumstances but loses him suddenly is so heartbreaking that it leaves the audience weeping in their seats.
After the initial groundwork, a bulk of My Sister’s Keeper deals with the frightening escalation of Kate’s cancer shown in vivid flashbacks. We see her vomiting blood, agonizing over hair loss after chemotherapy and finding romance. In contrast Anna is hospitalized for a series of painful bone marrow extractions and blood transfusions on behalf of her sister yet the bonding behind the siblings is evident so that Anna’s change of heart seems puzzling till Jesse blurts out the true state of affairs.
The casting and performance deserves kudos. Cameron Diaz gives probably one of the best performances in her life as Kate and Anna’s mother, Sara Fitzgerald. Thought she is undoubtedly cast as the villain of the tale she swings between the emotionally traumatized mother as well as the hardhearted lawyer, winning sympathy and shock in one go. This proves that only an actress of inherent likable nature such as Diaz could have carried Sara’s with such poise.
Abigail Breslin shows true talent as Anna. She never wavers between her performances and has got her lines down to pat. She wins sympathy as the unloved child in the family, walking in the shadows of her sister in her mother’s eyes yet the star of the film in the audience’s light. Alec Baldwin and Sofia Vassilieva too impress as Campbell Alexander and Kate.
My Sister’s Keeper may start off on a legal and ethical boundary note but it ultimately ends shedding light on the limits of love and sacrifice. It is an interesting feat and a brilliant tearjerker but the movie fails to live up to the essence of the novel especially because of its altered climax.
Ruwini JAYAWARDANA -dailynews.lk