I've been a fan of films that deal with genetics and cloning, because they always come with that staple moral dilemma that allows you to ponder a little about how science has and will progress, and how we harness that knowledge to do good, or exploit it for selfish desires. Gattaca has always ranked amongst my favourite, and though not really science fiction, My Sister's Keeper would be there as well for there's nothing to stop its suggestion that a child could be engineered, based on current technological capabilities.
Abigail Breslin burst onto the movie scene with that memorable role in the indie film Little Miss Sunshine, and undoubtedly stole many hearts with her rather cute performance with that oversized spectacle, and that amazingly insane finale dance. Here, she inevitably shines again as her character Anna Fitzgerald is an engineered baby, who's crafted from the baseline parts from mum Sara and dad Brian (played by Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric), and coddled together in a petri dish in a lab to ensure that she becomes a genetic copy of her sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), who's suffering from leukemia. That means that from day one of being born, she's all ripe for harvesting, starting with the umbilical cord blood, and various other procedures to become a walking, talking, genetically live support system for Kate.
So who could blame Anna's pessimistic introductory voice over about her views on pregnancy, be it either a coincidence, engineered and planned for. She's basically an unorthodox donor child, brought onto this world for one purpose only, and calls for both Sara and Brian to be judged on moral grounds that their child got born for selfish reasons, suffering plenty of pain in her childhood with nary any power to say No to, until now. Seeking the help of lawyer Campbell Alexander (played with glee by Alec Baldwin) who touts himself as a quick hack with a high success rate, she sues her parents for the rights to her own body, to be in control for once, and having the power to say no to invasive procedures which included the removal of a kidney. Of course this would mean that her sister would die, being denied a critical organ to replace her own failing one, though this is something you'd see a resolution coming from a mile away.
The story doesn't just focus on this aspect though, and it's a more powerful, meaningful and extremely moving story about family, and the loss or potential loss of loved ones. What's worse is always knowing that you've got limited time here, and that there's nothing within your power to change that inevitable. Will you resign yourself to fate and mope, or seize whatever time you have left to live it to the fullest? Personally I'd opt for the second, and would call for the plug to be pulled rather than to be artificially kept alive on a machine, during which you know you're basically a burden to everyone else, especially to family members. She faces the guilt consciousness of being the problem child who has taken away all the parental attention needed by her siblings because she's sick, and how everything got to be sacrificed for her, from careers to time, and the immense strain that this compromise impacts on the relationships between family members.
Cameron Diaz too deserves special mention for dropping her sassy demeanour and glam looks factor to play a mom and a housewife (even shaving her head bald!), who had given up her high-flying job just to take care of Kate, while slowly becoming the control freak facing great difficulties to let go and come to terms with the inevitable. We know she can do drama, and this film just reinforces that. Jason Patric unfortunately has nothing more than a minor support role here, given that the drama clearly centered on the mother and daughter relationships, and that of the brother as well.
Narratively, this film may seem like a tale of two halves, with the first having this documentary feel to it with its individual character point-of-view moments with voiceovers explaining their personal thoughts, and the structure was rather non-linear as well, moving forward and backward in time depending on who's actually presenting then. There's also a romance story written into it, and some courtroom dramatics as well to give it some punch aside from the more touching moments, with that general doom and gloom permeating throughout the film.
Saving a life is better than to build a seven storey pagoda, but life is finite, and when it's time, we have to come to terms with it, and for our loved ones to know when to let go rather than to prolong the pain and burden for both the individual and family. My Sister's Keeper presents this moral dilemma, and makes a brooding, movie piece out of it for you to ponder over long after the lights come back on.