Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Sister's Keeper

This has been a summer of great movies for me. I’m not a big movie-goer. It’s not that I don’t like movies. I do. But I resent the amount of money it takes to see a film, and don’t even get me started on the price of a soft drink and popcorn.

As an aside, have you noticed that movie popcorn is yellow? Even the unbuttered kind is yellow. When I pop popcorn at home, it’s white. But movie popcorn is popped and seasoned with so much yellow food coloring it looks like it ought to be banana flavored.

Anyway, let’s leave the snack bar and return to the theater. I usually get around to seeing the flicks I want to see when they’re at the Dollar Theater, or when they’re out on DVD. This summer there were several I really wanted to see right away: the new Star Trek flick, Pixar's Up, and the newest Harry Potter film. Two down, one to go. Then there was My Sister’s Keeper. The previews I saw intrigued me, as they did my wife and daughter. So when we decided to drop 50 bucks (that’s at matinee prices) on a movie and popcorn, we chose My Sister’s Keeper.

I had not read the novel by Jodi Picoult, so I didn’t have to worry about unhappy comparisons with the book.

In this age of in-vitro fertilization, embryonic stem-cell research, and promised miracle cures, no thinking adult should miss this movie. This is not a movie that makes you cheer, as Star Trek was. It’s not a movie that leaves you with good warm feelings, as Up did, although there are plenty of warm moments in My Sister’s Keeper. This is a movie to see, to think about, to feel. It will raise questions for you that you probably haven’t considered. For example, what are the rights of a child to her own blood, bone marrow, even her kidneys? When is it time to say, “Enough” to what extreme medical measures can do for a sick person? This movie will not only tug on your heartstrings, it will yank them so hard you’ll check for a hole in your chest. Especially if you are a father with a daughter, it will reduce you to tears of sadness and of joy. I speak from experience here.

I will print no spoilers. There is no need. Young Amanda Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva give superb performances as Anna and Kate. There really aren’t any bad performances here. I especially liked Joan Cusack as judge De Salvo. But there are two things I missed in this movie. The first is Jesse’s story. I suspect a lot of his story was left on the editing room floor. It seems vague and incomplete.

The biggest thing I missed, though, was God. There was a little talk of “where you go” after death, and a vague understanding of “I’ll be okay,” but that was all there was of the afterlife. There was virtually no mention of faith of any kind, and none of the comfort or understanding, or even the struggle that faith brings. I’m not talking about the soft, mushy, Precious Moments faith that is the background of a lot of vaguely Christian films, nor the obvious evangelizing of films like last year’s independent surprise, Fireproof. Nothing against Fireproof. It was a good film that hit its mark very well. But that wasn’t what My Sister’s Keeper was about. This film was a perfect opportunity to show how faith bears on the biggest questions of our existence, questions about sickness, suffering, death, and duty. Now, I suppose it is too much to hope that Hollywood would have dealt with these things well, but I can dream, can’t I?

Go see My Sister’s Keeper. It will make you think, it will make you feel, and you won’t regret it.

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