My Sister’s KeeperPost to Twitter
When parents Sara (Cameron Diaz) and Brian (Jason Patric) discover their daughter Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) has a rare form of leukemia, they agree to an “off the record” recommendation from their doctor to create a “test tube baby” specially selected to be a perfect match for their sick daughter so the new can donate the blood, morrow, and other cells Kate will require.
Flash forward 11 years: Kate is alive, but often suffers the symptoms of her disease in spite of the many and painful donations she has received from her sister Anna (Abigail Breslin). When it becomes clear Kate will soon need a new kidney, Anna accompanies her brother Jesse (Evan Ellingson) to the office of a prominent attorney (Alec Baldwin) and announces that she wants to sue her parents for the rights to her own body—starting with the right to keep her kidney.
In flashbacks and touching family scenes, two things are clear: The Fitzgerald family is close and loving, but they have also been deeply tested by Kate’s illness. Sara and Brian struggle to maintain their marriage. Kate’s short-lived teen romance with another cancer patient (Thomas Dekker) ends badly. Anna describes herself as having been created as “spare parts” for Kate. Jesse, the middle child, is often simply forgotten or set aside.
Now the family must endure a trial presided over by a compassionate judge (Joan Cusack) as Kate slowly succumbs to her cancer and her failing kidneys.
This is a frank movie about a girl dying from cancer. We see lots of nose-bleeding and vomiting (including throwing up blood), as well as various medical procedures. A little rough language includes the use of God’s and Jesus’ names for swearing. Though it apparently does not happen in Picoult’s novel, Kate does end up in bed and seemingly naked with her boyfriend, having done some sexual “stuff,” we’re told.
Worldview Talking Points
The family and worldview issues available to discuss together after watching “My Sister’s Keeper” are almost too many too list. They include dealing with the ethical issues surrounding family planning options like in-vitro fertilization, genetic selection of children, and using those tools to create life with the intention of using it to treat other life.
In addition, the film deals very frankly with the role of parents in managing their children’s illnesses—and the impact of those decisions on the rest of their children. Mom Sara is a rough saint, attacking as often as she is nurturing—all in the interest of her sick child’s well-being. Forgotten Jesse wrestles with resentment. Anna is both gracious and wounded.
Finally, of course, the story opens the door to conversations about death and the afterlife. The film is nearly silent about the issue of God or any kind of formal theology of heaven or hell. Instead, we hear Kate hopefully suggest she’ll see a loved one on the other side and promise her sister to wait for her at a beloved family vacation spot in Montana if she passes.
We hope a few of the following questions will generate some helpful conversation for you and your child if you happen to see the film.
- Did you like the movie? Why or why not? If a movie makes you cry, does that necessarily make it a “good movie” for you?
- Do you know any families in which one of the kids had cancer? How did that illness impact the rest of the family? Did it make them stronger in any way? Did it hurt their relationships from what you could see?
- The Fitzgerald family in this movie seems to be dealing with Kate’s illness without any obvious relationship with God—at least from what we’re shown. Do you think it would be harder to face a terminal illness in a child without turning to God for help? How do you think having a relationship with God through faith in Jesus would help during an experience like this?
- Some people would say the fact that kids get cancer is evidence that God is either non-existant or very distant and unconcerned with us. How would you answer someone who said that? How do you think a Christian in the middle of a tragic situation like that and who has been comforted by God would answer?
- In the movie, Kate’s mom Sara is often kind of mean and angry and cold-seeming. Why do you think that is? Do you think her need to be in control is usually helpful or not so much? Do you understand why a mom could act that way in response to caring for a very sick child?
- Jesse, the brother, often seems neglected, and Anna says she feels like her only reason for existing is to give parts to the sister she loves. How do you think their parents could have helped Anna and Jesse to feel better about their own lives—or do you think it was just Jesse’s and Anna’s job in life to learn to not be the center of attention?
- Do you think parents should ever be allowed to create one child in order to treat the physical health of another child? Why or why not?
- Do you think parent should be able to use the most modern technology to try to have children—or to try to keep children alive long past the point where they once would have died? Why or why not?
- How about the court case: Should an 11 year old have the right to decide what happens to his or her body?
- If you were friends with any of the people in the Fitzgerald family, how do you think you—or our family—could be most helpful to them? Is there any way we could help families like that in our lives now?
- Did you think it was strange that almost nobody talked about God or Jesus or heaven and hell in the film?
- If someone like Kate asked you what you believe happens to a person after death, what would you tell her? How would you describe what you believe about Jesus, heaven, and hell?
- Would it be completely inappropriate—or the most loving thing ever—to openly describe our belief in Jesus and salvation to someone who was dying? Does your answer to that question change if that person is a teenager or younger?
- Is it compassionate to warn the family of a sick child about heaven and hell and faith in Jesus if we’re not also involved in helping with things like food, child care, finances, friendship, etc.?
- Does a movie like this make you wonder about heaven? Does it make you hopeful for heaven or afraid? Can we be ready to go to heaven even if we’re not quite ready to stop living on earth with our family and friends?