Review of My Sister's Keeper


Movie Review: "My Sister's Keeper"

-- Rating: PG-13 (thematic content, language, teen drinking)
Length: 109 minutes
Release Date: June 26, 2009
Directed by: Nick Cassavetes
Genre: Comedy / Drama

Comedy and drama can be a hard pair to balance, but "My Sister's Keeper" hits all the right notes without getting too bogged down in its dark plot. The movie is an emotional rollercoaster that succeeds in capturing the hearts and challenging the minds of moviegoers. It is held back only by some spotty camera work and rough acting.

"My Sister's Keeper" follows the story of two sisters, Anna (Abigail Breslin) and Kate Fitzgerald (Sofia Vassilieva), as they struggle with the prospect of death and the meaning of life. Kate suffers from acute promyelocytic leukemia, and Anna was brought into the world to be a genetic match should Kate need a kidney or other transfer from her younger sister. Their mother, Sara (Cameron Diaz), wishes only to keep Kate alive at any cost. Anna sues for medical emancipation to keep her kidney when Kate goes into renal failure, and attorney Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) works to help her make her case. Numerous plot twists reveal more about the sisters and their relationship as the movie unfolds.

The acting in the film is uneven, with mediocre performances from Breslin and Vassilieva often coming on the heels of incredibly emotional and powerful scenes created by the pair. Diaz often outshines everyone when she takes the stage, which poses a problem, since Sara is not the star of this particular story. Baldwin does an excellent job portraying the attorney, but his delivery of the character has similar problems. Both Baldwin's and Diaz's characters suffer from the lack of attention given to developing them as anything more than a prop to set scenes featuring Breslin and Vassilieva. The laser focus on the two sisters draws attention away from the supporting actors, and this often feels like a poor choice. That same focus highlights the hit-and-miss acting of the two young actresses, though this flaw does not drag down the movie too greatly.

"My Sister's Keeper" benefits greatly from its top-notch cinematography. The camera always seems to be in just the right place, transitions are smooth and even, and the lighting captures emotions and evocative scenery perfectly. The cameras caught film angles and elements that may have been missed by less astute cinematographers, resulting in a movie that provides picture-perfect scenes at almost every turn. The use of flashbacks may seem a bit dated for a modern film, but the movie uses them in a stunning fashion that weaves a tale stretching back to childhood and serves only to highlight the emotions surrounding the present-day scenes.

The plot is where this movie really shines. Each twist and turn brings with it either heartwarming humor or more serious emotions that enhance the gravity of the story. The dialogue and overall flow of the plot are spot-on, even though Sara and Campbell feel a bit flat due to the lack of character development and exploration of the two characters. The mixture of drama and comedy is very hard to juggle, but the script does justice to both at every turn. The dialogue is exceptionally well written, with lines that read easily and sound like they come from the experience and the emotions of real people. Viewers can easily lose themselves in the emotional impact of the film, enjoying the many twists and turns the plot takes as it reveals the history and future of the two girls.

Nick Cassavetes' directorial prowess is on full display in this movie. The director ties together moments of excellent acting and believable dialogue with evocative scenery and brilliant cinematographic choices. Many minor characters emerge during flashbacks or minor subplots, and the director handles these by ensuring that they tie directly into the main plot in a clear and visible manner. The only flaw noticeable in the direction is the uneven performances delivered by the sisters; this may keep the film from rising to the very top of its genre, but isn't enough to hold back the overall experience.

"My Sister's Keeper" keeps moviegoers riveted throughout and makes a great choice for a movie night alone or with friends. The movie succeeds in spite of some cardboard characters and strange acting choices, rising above the bulk of work in its genre.

Rating: 4 out of 5