Compelling and painfully honest, My Sister’s Keeper is a film that resonates for weeks. Jodi Picoult’s novel caused a stir when it debuted and in the hands of director Nick Cassavetes, her emotional force of nature remains so on screen.
At the mother-daughter core of My Sister’s Keeper is mother Cameron Diaz and her two daughters — played by Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva. The latter portrays the child who is diagnosed with cancer at an early age that sets off the creation of the genetically crafted younger sister that is Anna. As portrayed by Breslin, Anna’s constant sacrifice of her own body to sustain her sister’s life is heartbreaking while simultaneously empowering as exhibited by Breslin’s innate acting gifts.
Vassilieva is perfect casting as Kate. As her character evolves from the beginning of the film, the strength she exudes as the face of the utter horror that is a child dying is unforgettable. By the end of the film, Vassilieva’s Kate could pass for the most mature of the family.
Diaz is divine
But, let’s not kid ourselves — My Sister’s Keeper is Cameron Diaz’s movie.
Diaz has never in her vast career emitted the emotional power she explodes in every scene. Whether its joy with her children or the utter despair of losing a child, Diaz shows an acting range usually expected from the likes of Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett. If Diaz is not nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, it will be the biggest snub of this new millennium.
The touching guided hand that is director Cassavetes is also an impeccable choice to lead this emotionally charged must-see summer movie. Cassavetes took Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook and made it one of the most in-demand romantic films of all time.
Where in The Notebook the reflection on dying was immediate and the tale told over a fruitful lifetime, My Sister’s Keeper is at the other end of the spectrum. Here the main characters grapple with the moral and familial issues that arise when part of a family unit is manufactured as another faces death. The film opens with Breslin’s voice-over saying just that. She was created.
Complex emotional web
How does one live with that? On top of the other facing-death emotions, how does Anna’s sister Kate feel about her younger sister being hurt continually for her own survival through painful medical tests and procedures?
Cassavetes delivers the answers to the above questions through his effective use of drama highs and lows. There is more true drama in My Sister’s Keeper than exists in all of the summer movies out there combined.
The two male leads also shine. Alec Baldwin plays an attorney employed by Breslin to medically emancipate herself from her parents. And Jason Patric, a welcome addition to any film, is equal parts strong for his family and deeply vulnerable as a human being who is faced with what society collectively calls â€˜the unthinkable.’
My Sister’s Keeper also triumphs in how it portrays children facing death. Particularly moving is a hospital prom scene: all the boys have bald heads shining above their sharp tuxedos and the girls have glamorous wigs draping gorgeous hair across the backs of the dream-like dresses. It is unforgettable.
Moments such as the prom scene will certainly produce tears, but calling My Sister’s Keeper a weeper is simply a rhyme and simplifies the power of this film. Between Cassavetes’ direction, Diaz’s Oscar-worthy performance and the strength of Breslin and Vassilieva performances as child actors to give such esteemed performances — thus far — My Sister’s Keeper is the film to beat in 2009 for movie goers who enjoy their films to challenge their head and hearts and not only their eyes and ears.
Don’t miss our interview with Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva here and tune into the Daily Dish on June 26 for the entire video interview.