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My Sister’s Keeper

PG-13 for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, sensuality, language and brief teen drinking

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The Story

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.

Content Issues

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.

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Jane Jaone on Aug 10, 2009 said...

After so many procedures and pain that Kate had tolerated, Kate also wanted to die.  She had had enough.  She asked Anna to go to a lawyer and sue her parents.  She was tired,and she knew the wear her illness was having on the family that she loved.

emily on Nov 13, 2009 said...

the ending of the movie was really sad. I thought it was horrible compared to the book

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matt1 on May 27, 2010 said...

Conceived by means of in vitro fertilization, Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) was brought into the world to be a genetic match for her older sister, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), who suffers from acute promyelocytic leukemia in order to keep her alive. Her family members are introduced one by one and each tell about how Kate’s illness has affected them personally and the family. When Kate turns 15, she goes into renal failure. Anna knows that she will be forced by her parents to donate a kidney. She also knows that, if she does donate a kidney, she will be unable to live the life she wants; she will not be able to take part in activities such as cheerleading and soccer, or be a mother. Anna tells her parents that she does not want any of this, and proceeds to sue them for medical emancipation and the rights to her own body. Her overprotective mother, Sara (Cameron Diaz) is indignant at Anna’s decision and even strikes her across the face when she receives the notice of intended prosecution. Attorney Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) agrees to work for Anna as her guardian ad litem, suing for partial termination of parental rights. It is later learned he agreed to take the case not for the notoriety, but because he has epilepsy and understands her predicament of not having control over one’s own body.

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