Movie Review: My Sister’s Keeper

This film slapped me in the face within the first 60 seconds while the opening credits were still running. I sat down without expectations  and a couple of slices of pizza, and I needed to stop chewing so I could  hear the narration better. And then it kept slapping and slapping.

Anna, an eleven year old girl tells her story. Her 16-year-old sister Kate has leukemia, diagnosed at age three with a prognosis that she would not live past age five. She figures out that she was “engineered” through in-vitro fertilization by her parents to be a perfect genetically matching donor for spare parts for her sister. Since Anna’s birth the family has harvested umbilical blood, stem cells, bone marrow and plasma to keep her sister alive. Now it’s time for Anna to give up a kidney, and she does not want to cooperate. She sues her own parents.

That’s the framework of the story. The subject matter is jarring from the first minute of the movie to the last. Tough ethical choices surface constantly. Can the rights of one human being be sacrificed for the benefit of another? Does a child have the responsibility to donate of herself, at great risk to herself, for a family member? Should we protect life at all cost?

This movie not only addresses all those challenges of our modern lives, it also has some side plots and surprises in store that are unexpected yet just as unsettling as the main story. The movie simply does not let up.

The film is based on the novel by Jodi Picoult.  I have not read that book, but I suspect it’s an excellent story, and I wish I had read the book first. This is one of those movies that I don’t know how to rate. 
During the first half there was not much acting, but more narrating by the various actors. There were still photos, collages of pictures, quick slow motion flashbacks and dreamlike scenes from the past. It was hard to keep track of the story, and it seemed like the focus was shifting so often, I sometimes was disoriented. I thought it was actually a bad movie but a superb story. I felt somebody was reading the book to me.

Except for the soundtrack. The music pulled  me in.

Except for the shocking images. Sick children throwing up, terrible nose bleeds and blood vomits.

Except for the disturbing conflict scenes. They kept hammering away.

Ok, it’s not a movie, it’s a pictorial narration with a soundtrack. 

After asking myself a number of questions impossible to answer, and after realizing how lucky I was that I was healthy, had lived a full life, had healthy and well-adjusted children, and all was good, seeing people suffer from devastating illnesses put things into perspective for me and gave me new strength and optimism.

The movie that wasn’t a movie was a movie after all.

Rating: ****

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