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Movie Review

My Sister's Keeper a.k.a. “Beim Leben meiner Schwester,” “I adelfi mou ki ego,” “Ma vie pour la tienne,” “Para a Minha Irmã”

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

Reviewed by: Eric Hernandez

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens
Drama, Adaptation
1 hr. 49 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
June 26, 2009 (wide—2,600 theaters)
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Relevant Issues
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Family Answers HOME page

Where did cancer come from? Answer

How did bad things come about? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer




Goodness of God

Death in the Bible

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer


Cloning: Right or wrong? Answer

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer

Featuring: Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack, Walter Raney, Sofia Vassilieva, Heather Wahlquist, Jason Patric, Evan Ellingson, Nicole Lenz, Brennan Bailey, Olivia Hancock, Jeffrey Markle, Emily Deschanel, John DeRosa, Marcos De La Cruz, Noni Tulk-Perna, Matt Barry, Annie Wood, Mark M. Johnson, Chris Kinkade, David Thornton, E.G. Daily, Rico Simonini, Frank Cassavetes, David Bortolucci, Olivia Jade Fine, Andrew Schaff, Paul Christopher Butler, Andrew Shack, Angel Garcia, Frank Peluso, Daniel Guzman, Paul Anthony Olguin, Big Al, Mimi Fletcher, Lin Shaye, Eric Cueto, Lexi Ryan, Nina Barry, Thomas Dekker, Ellia English, Mary Jo Deschanel, Jonah Johnson, Rob Giles, Kaiulani Kimbrell, Dylan Showalter, Jarred Tibbetts, Precious Hanley, Michael Chow, Jon Moonves, Roy Allen III
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Producer: Curmudgeon Films, Gran Via Productions, Mark Johnson Productions, Stephen Furst, Scott Goldman, Mark Johnson, Chuck Pacheco, Diana Pokorny, Steven Posen, Hillary Sherman, Mendel Tropper, Mendel Tropper
Distributor: New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures

“Most babies are accidents. Not me. I was engineered. Born to save my sister’s life.”

So begins “My Sister’s Keeper”, based on the 2004 best-selling novel by Jodi Picoult, and directed by Nick Cassavetes (director of the 2004 movie “The Notebook”). Those opening words are spoken by Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin), an 11-year-old girl who was conceived in vitro as a genetic match for her leukemia-stricken older sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva). Whenever a part of Kate’s body fails, Anna’s parents Sara (Cameron Diaz) and Brian (Jason Patric) immediately offer up the needed part of Anna’s body for donation. Because of this, Anna is unable to lead a normal life, as she must always “be there” for her sister. When Kate turns 13, one of her kidneys fails. This time, however, Anna is unwilling to donate the needed kidney and with the help of attorney Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin), sues her parents for “medical emancipation,” or the rights to her own body. Kate will not survive if she does not receive the kidney.

There may be potential in that plot for an uplifting movie, but this most definitely is not one. This film is obviously intended as a “tearjerker,” but goes far and beyond merely sad, and by the end becomes thoroughly depressing. Sara, the mother, works hard at fighting her daughter’s disease, and Anna’s decision tears their fragile family apart. The rest of the family seems to be willing to accept Anna’s choice, even Kate, who says that she is tired of fighting the disease, and tired of the strain it has placed on their family. This is depressing stuff, and plays no better than it reads. Sara is crushed by this decision, slapping Anna when she first hears about it, and then becoming more and more grieved as her family comes to accept the decision.

In what may be the film’s most unnecessary plot point, Kate falls in love with another cancer-stricken boy named Taylor, and the two end up apparently having sex in a brief-but-unneeded scene (though the fact that they had sex is later disputed). In that scene, Kate is seen lying on top of Taylor in his hospital bed and both appear to be naked; Kate’s bare back is visible down to her waist, while Taylor is bare-chested. Elsewhere, Kate’s brother Jesse is seen eying scantily clad prostitutes while he waits at a bus stop.

There is no violence to speak of, but it is upsetting and at times disturbing to watch the cancer eat away at Kate’s body. We see the effects of the disease progress throughout the movie: Kate continually has nosebleeds, and is seen vomiting blood. Towards the end, Kate becomes increasingly emaciated and is covered in bruises. Elsewhere, a man is seen having an epileptic seizure. As a young child, Anna is forced to give bone marrow, and is seen kicking and screaming as doctors prepare a large needle.

There is also a considerable amount language for a PG-13 movie, including 3 uses of G*D, one F-word, and a few S-words. “God” and “Jesus” are also uttered many times as exclamations.

All the pain and suffering the characters in the movie endure could be lifted were they to find out the truth about Jesus and his message of salvation. Revelation 21:4 says, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away”. Alas, no such hope is to be found in “My Sister’s Keeper”. Kate says that she thinks “everything will be okay,” but the audience never has her assurance.

Perhaps the movie exists solely to inspire thought and debate about the issue of Anna being conceived in order to keep her sister alive, but there is no other deep, profound meaning to be found in “My Sister’s Keeper,” only a depressing story of a family being torn apart. I don’t recommend this movie.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I cannot believe that the folks who have posted so far are not seeing the point of this moving, albeit sad, movie and book. It is not meant to have a happy or unhappy ending, but rather a story to make us think about current, social issues in our society. Jodi Piccoult has written many, many stories about issues from the death penalty to abortion to the Amish, to priest sex abuse of children, etc. All of her books and stories are meant to provide the reader (viewer) with opportunities to delve into ourselves and make decisions on what we would do or what we think. It would appear that many of the posts here are simply looking at the language and one sex scene, which was meant to portray the fact that the sick young woman thought she wouldn’t have sex in her short life if not with another cancer patient. Open up your minds, allow some thought to enter, rather than relying on every movie and story you see or read to tell you what to think or feel. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Karen Carlise, age 50 (USA)
Positive—“My Sister’s Keeper” is one of those films that a viewer would rather not remember, but is a necessary film to be remembered. Why? Because it shows the depressing and harmful effects that cancer has on people and their loved ones--it tears people from the inside-out. The movie is not supposed to be a happy go lucky film, it is supposed to be realistic and is meant to get the viewer to think about the ethical issues involved.

Should parents risk one child’s health for the sake of another? Should a girl refuse to give a kidney to her ailing sister because it is her sister’s wish to die?

This movie does have an uplifting part though, in the end the family sticks together and are there for each other. Anna and Kate have a very special bond and it seems that either would do anything for the other, Anna continuously gives up her own health for her sister and in the end Kate protects Anna’s body for good.

As far as offensive content goes, I agree the use of the Lord’s name is not necessary, but the other curse words (there were only a handful or so) did not bother me. Let’s be realistic, when a loved one gets cancer, it’s not going to be all fun and games—words will be spoken, humans aren’t perfect and this movie shows how a family deals with this struggle. Also, the “sex scene” which only shows Kate’s bare-back and Taylor’s bare-chest, is realistic--normal teenagers struggle with sexual temptation. Plus, what would a normal teenager do with the person that they love when they know death is upon them?

All in all, this film is necessary, it makes the viewer have compassion for cancer patients/survivors and also reminds us all that life is hopeless without God.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Elisa A. Walker, age 20 (USA)
Positive—I felt this movie was excellent. Though sad… it’s based on reality!! It causes a person to think about the here and now—and what is important in life!!!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Lisa M, age 38 (USA)


Negative—This movie was depressing—and difficult to watch this girl die of cancer. There were some good parts, but I wish I wouldn’t have watched it. The only thing that got me through it was messing around with my 13 year old niece and puppy to try and get my mind off watching this girl vomit blood as she is dying. Didn’t like this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Samantha Taylor, age 35 (USA)
Negative—I noticed that the reviewer was wondering why certain scenes were in the movie, and I must comment that the movie was extremely accurate to the book. I would have been unhappy if the scenes had been left out, as they contributed enormously to the story. There is one scene however with Kate and her boyfriend that was not needed, as it was inappropriate.

The reason I like this movie is because it shows the real struggles families have with cancer; it is not sugar-coated in any way, and is told very bluntly. ***SPOILER*** Kate has a reason she is refusing to donate any part of her body to her sister, and she is only refusing by her own sister’s wishes. ***END SPOILER***

This helps us understand Kate’s supposed “selfishness” when it comes to her refusing to help her sister. There are a few tense scenes, and I would certainly not recommend this to anyone younger than 15 years old. But Abigail Breslin once again stars in an excellent movie portraying a person with cancer, and the daily struggles they go through. As the reviewer said though, things would have been a lot easier for the characters had they been relying on God for strength, and the fact that you accept Jesus as your savior, you go to heaven when you die. And that is a glorious thing indeed.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Anna Marie, age 18 (USA)
Comments from young people
Neutral—Wow. Where do I start with this movie. It had a wonderful storyline and was made very well. It was a very touching movie that me and my best friend went to go see, however there was some very objectionable parts. There was flat out cursing, everywhere from the d word to the f-word… They talk about sex in the beginning of the movie and throughout the movie, and Kate, one of the main characters, talks about having sex and is seen in bed with her boyfriend without clothes, even though you see nothing, its obviously suggested. I wouldn’t recommend this movie for anyone under 13. If you can block out those parts though, its a wonderful movie definitely a tear jerker.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Mackenzie D., age 14 (USA)
Negative—I saw this movie with my mom, and was shocked by all the cursing. throughout the movie there is cursing in addition to using God’s name in vain, and several others including 1 f-word. Over-all, the storyline was great and the acting was very realistic. But it could have done without all the swearing. I was embarrassed that I dragged my mom to it. Bottom line, wait till the movie comes out on DVD and use your profanity filter.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Sarah, age 17 (USA)
Neutral—I went to go see this movie with my two older cousins and my younger sister, knowing nothing of its moral content. We had tried to check the internet, but since it was newly released, no one had commented. We decided to go see it, despite our lack of knowledge about it. After watching it, I felt a little let down. My friend had read the book and raved about it, so I thought it would be very good.

Although the story line is a sweet (and very sad) story, it had a “scene,” which many movies have now, and its language content wasn’t the greatest. Other than that, it’s a good movie. The immoral scene happens in the middle of the movie where the sister with cancer goes to a dance with her boyfriend, but the language is sprinkled throughout the movie.

I would not advise it as a family movie. Not just for the immoral scene and bad language, but also because it is extremely sad. For those who don’t like sad movies, don’t go see this one. The whole entire theater was filled with sniffs and people blowing their noses. Even a full grown man cried, which isn’t bad. I’m just saying, if you do go see it, be prepared to cry not just in one part, but in many parts throughout the movie. Some parts could be a little daunting for young children, since it deals with cancer and the effects of it. One thing I did like very much about this movie was how you see that the family members really do care about each other. Sometimes, it is less apparent than others, but at other times, it is very apparent, especially towards the end. You see that the family really loves each other, despite the way they sometimes act towards each other (mostly between the mother and the youngest daughter).

All in all, I give this movie a rating of 4, because the acting was very well done. All of the characters did their parts very well. It was pretty predictable, but I find that with many movies now. I think it had good values in it, but also some not-so-great values. If you don’t want you or your children to watch immoral things, I advise that you wait for the movie to come out, then skip the bad scene.

Mostly other than that, it was a good movie. Although I did feel a little let down, I didn’t walk out of the theater feeling that I had wasted my money.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Olivia D., age 15 (USA)
Positive—This is by far, one of the saddest movies I have ever seen. I cried pretty much through the whole entire thing, and I think that everybody else in the theater did as well. It was really good though. The only bad parts in this movie have already been mentioned, like Kate with her boyfriend. It seems as though they have sex, but later in the movie Kate says that they didn’t, but that they did “some stuff.” I think that is pretty much just as bad, but just so you know, that’s what happens with that. There is swearing throughout, including one f-word. However, I wouldn’t say that the swearing was worse than most movies nowadays.

Anna’s mother slaps her when she first finds out that she is suing them. That is everything bad in the movie.

The rest of it though, was a really good story. It got me thinking about the effects that cancer can have, not only on the patient, but on the entire family. As I said it was really sad, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone 13 and older. I was very surprised that there weren’t more positive comments on this movie, because it is probably in my top ten favorite movies!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Melanie, age 16 (Canada)
Neutral—I want to go see the movie with a friend and we both have read the book always. So I look at the in two ways. One we can compare it to the book and then so what I think about it or I could just say want to think about the movie without look back at the book. In this case I am going to do both.

First off, let’s remember that it is hard not to want to judge the movie by the book after you have read it. So here I go. The movie was a lot like the book I think until the end. That is were it got chance up. But is that always a bad thing. They keep everything important in the book in the movie so that was great. If you don’t like them changing up the ending then you would not like it but of an over all I that it was great and it when along with the book pretty good.

Now, not thinking about the book, what do I think about the movie? I still would have to say I like it. It had a great story in there for us to learn. It made me think about my life and everything I have. I am not sure I like the idea of all the cursing for kids but I am not sure I would say it is a kids kind of movie. I know that know that I got a lot out of it but I don’t know if a kid would understand. But again I thought it was a great movie over all. And yes they talk about sex but again I don’t think it was a kids kind of movie so I think it was okay and not only that I know that I have people think will how about be that Christian. They didn’t do anything and we are face with that type of stuff everyday so why are wanting to hide that? I think it need to be in there. Maybe not that much. It may have gone to far but it is part of Life so we need to look at that.

So again I thought it was a great movie. I don’t think it would be a good movie for kids but for teenagers and adults. Yes, I would say I like it. It has its up and down, but over all it was a good movie that you should go see!!!…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Rachel, age 16 (USA)
Positive—…truely touching film. The only slightly objectionable content is when Kate and Tyler lie with each other in a hospital bed. This is not even a sex scene. Sex was implied, but nothing was shown. The family has its moments, but do pull together to get through tough times. There was no religious talk, at all, during the film, even when they talked about life after death briefly at different stages. The family did not appear to be saved either.

All in all, there is very little offensive content, and [it] was a well done film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Sarah, age 14 (Australia)
Comments from non-viewers
The only reason I have not seen this movie is that I have not yet had to opportunity, and I may not have that opportunity until it comes to DVD. As it stands, however, if the comments so far are accurate in that this film portrays a realistic situation with people who behave in a realistic manner given their situation, then I would recommend it regardless of the moral quality of the film. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning sinful behavior or attitudes, but ignoring them won’t make them go away. We as a Christian community have made a lot of noise about how what we watch affects what we think, but we often miss the other side of that coin.

Many films are simply a reflection of the society we find ourselves in. Those that have seen this film consistently claim that if faithfully shows the situation and struggles many families find themselves in. If we are to minister to these families, would it not be helpful to see a similar situation play itself out on the big screen? The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus has commanded us to be salt and light in the world, and that involves a delicate balancing act. We have to be Christ-like in that we have to show that this world is not our home and that we are fundamentally different than this world. We also have to be Christ-like in the fact that we have to make this world our home for the benefit of those who do not know Him.

By putting up cultural walls between the people of God and the people of the world doesn’t make us more holy, it only makes our light harder to see. The example that Jesus gave us shows us that we must be holy and separate (He was the Son of God), and at the same time connected to the lost people of the world to bring them into relationship with God (He was the Son of Man).

The inherent difficulty of this is part and parcel of the cross Jesus told us to carry as we follow him. Unfortunately, many leaders in the Church have assumed that the people of God are not salt, but tofu. They teach us that if we get involved with the world, we will become like the world and take on it’s sinful nature. This is a serious risk, there’s no denying that, but it is no reason to keep the salt in the shaker.

God never called us to safety and ease. In the New Testament, the only things promised to true followers of Jesus on Earth were trial, persecution, pain, suffering, death,… and the presence and help of the Holy Spirit. Being a Christian is a risky and dangerous proposition, but as Jesus taught us in Luke 17:33, it is the only way to truly live. God wasn’t afraid to meet us on our level when he “pitched his tent among us,” so why should we be afraid to meet His precious lost sheep on their level?
—Desmond, age 28 (Canada)