Making the Grades
I once heard a mother say that although she loved all her children she loved best the one who needed her at the moment. At the time it seemed like a strange statement but after watching My Sister’s Keeper, I began to understand those sentiments a little better.
With a similar theme to the sci-fi film The Island, My Sister’s Keeper deals with the ethical issues involved in extending life. However, unlike the earlier thriller where human clones all wore matching jumpsuits and lived in a highly controlled facility until their "owners" needed to harvest their body parts, the family in this film could easily live next door or just down the street.
Since Kate Fitzgerald (Sofia Vassilieva) was diagnosed with leukemia, her mother Sara (Cameron Diaz) gave up a promising legal career to stay home and care for her daughter full-time. Sara and her husband Brian (Jason Patric) also took a bold step and gave birth to a "designer baby" who’s DNA was medically manipulated in order to ensure she was a perfect donor match for the ailing sister.
From the day she arrived, Anna (Abigail Breslin) has been subjected to a battery of medical procedures in which blood and bone marrow have been culled to prolong her sister’s life. Now a young teen, Kate’s condition is worsening and she needs a kidney transplant. But 11-year-old Anna throws the family a curve ball when she refuses to donate one of hers. She also hires a pompous city lawyer (Alec Baldwin) to help her sue her parents for control of her own body.
Unfortunately, the court case isn’t the only trouble the Fitzgerald family is facing. Sara’s desire to be an unwavering advocate for her oldest daughter has become an obsession and caused a rift in her marriage. Her son, Jesse (Evan Ellingson), and her sister (Heather Wahlquist ) feel the brunt of her neglect as well. As Kate’s health deteriorates, the tensions between family members erupt more frequently and violently.
Like many emotionally charged stories, My Sister’s Keeper has plenty of moments calculated to elicit tears. Yet there are also strong elements of truth portrayed as the Fitzgeralds face an uncertain future. While language, subject matter and Anna’s frank revelation of how and why she was conceived make this film unsuitable for most younger viewers, the story raises some important discussion points for older teens and adults about the legal and moral issues surrounding the use of donors—especially ones designed solely for that purpose.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about My Sister’s Keeper.
How is this family impacted by Katie’s illness? What kind of pressure does it put on her siblings? Why are children often forced to grow up sooner in challenging situations?
What dilemmas do Judge De Salvo (Joan Cusack) and Dr. Chance (David Thornton) face as they deal with the Fitzgerald family?
How does Kate respond to her diagnosis?