My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

Cancer sucks. No matter how you talk of it is it always an asshole. It sneaks up on you, destroys your body, and then leaves you as if nothing more than a piece of refuse. And yet, if Cancer has a devil’s advocate one could say that the measure of life, as following Emerson, is the depth of it; a depth found not in material decadence but familial love. My Sister’s Keeper is, in this sense, about how to estimate such a measure.

The plot is simple: a family has a cancer stricken girl (Kate) and in order to save her decides to have another baby (Anna). Anna’s purpose is to be an organ farm. Essentially, she was born so as to provide organic materials to her sister, to ensure that she had a match no matter what she needed. Her parents themselves weren’t matches so having a genetically engineered baby was the only way to ensure that Kate had a fighting chance to survive. Problem is that when you spend your entire life as a portable sack of genetic goo and are underage to boot, you don’t have much say in what happens to you if you should want to say ‘no’ to an operation. And so Anna, taking her fate into her own hands (though secretly in service of her sister’s wishes) searches out a top lawyer so as to “medically emancipate” herself and regain mastery over her body. Considering that Anna’s mother is a top lawyer who is dead set against this emancipation, the conflict runs deep.

The plot is filled with tension yet is not overly melodramatic. This is good because considering a lot of the turns the film takes with both Anna and Kate, it could have easily devolved into a clichéd, and poorly thought-out tear jerker meant as nothing more than a cheap seller. Though it still is this to some degree the director had enough sense to interspace the narrative with humor which fits tightly into Kate’s desire and life. Though some aspects of the mise-en-scene are trite-the bubbles and annoying recurrence of water at emotional moments will wear thin- it is usually accomplished with vigor that while not super-original will nonetheless occupy a cinematic space fitting comfortably between fantasy and realism. In all, it is simply a well-made movie. Not something to remember for all time but neither is it something which will haunt your dreams.


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