“A Rain of Tears Under a Piece of Blue Sky”

Directed by Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook), Jodi Picoult’s dense and melodramatic 2004 novel about a family struggling to save a terminally ill child comes to tear duct exhausted life on the big screen. Brian and Sara Fitzgerald (Jason Patric and Cameron Diaz) customized their second daughter, Anna (Abigail Breslin), in utero to be a perfect biological match for her sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), who was diagnosed with leukemia at an early age.

With each of Kate’s relapses, Anna’s parents drag her to the hospital to harvest her blood, lymphocytes, granulocytes, and bone marrow. With the final relapse, she’s asked to cough up a kidney. So she takes her life savings and hires a lawyer (Alec Baldwin) asking to be medically emancipated from her parents

The Fitzgerald family and movie itself wrestle with unanswerable moral questions from can parents force their child to become an organ donor for a fatally ill sibling? to the meaning behind such tragedy and pain? And the audience is left wondering how will the family heal from not just the ravages of the disease, but also the splits caused by the courtroom battle.

The movie mixes some interesting POV jumping interwoven with flashback sequences which sort of confuses the narrative at the beginning until the viewer gets used to the rhythm of the movie. A counterintuitive choice, Cameron Diaz desperately tries to act her butt off as Sara Fitzgerald, playing a mother who had basically quit her life (as a lawyer) in order to fully care for her stricken daughter. And despite the height of melodrama, we buy her performance despite how shrill she gets in her more overprotective moments.

“At any moment, our whole world could come tumbling down.” –Brian

It’s easy to dismiss events as “life is life, death is death, and no one understands either” though we try to find meaning in both. Even in the living, prolonged sickness can have various effects on a family. Among the many possible emotions it can elicit, it can make you hard, weary, battle hardened. It can produce resentments and reveal cracks in your life. There can be such a black hole of need within the family, in this case Kate, others can get over looked: Jesse’s dyslexia or Anna not necessarily wanting to be an organ donor.

“My whole life is a pain.” –Kate

We’re only here for a finite period of time. The stark reality of our lives is that we’re all going to die we just never know when. Be it by disease, accident, age, or random crime, death adds gravitas to life. By thinking about death, we focus on what’s important in the time we have. It causes us to re-prioritize and make us realize what is really important. Yet in the living, we have to find a way to feel and navigate the pain of life in a fallen world without numbing ourselves from it.

“Most babies are coincidences … I was engineered. Born for a particular reason.” –Anna

Anna is essentially a donor child, conceived to be spare parts for her sister. In some ways, she’s no different than any of us. We’re all donor children, here for one another. Rather than being genetic saviors, we’re relational saviors. We’re more than just accidents to one another. People aren’t an interruption of our lives, they are the reason for our living. The things and people that interrupt us are the reason why we’re here. We’re God interruptions: the interruptions are the point of life. We DO have a choice: we choose to be donors of our time, resources, and emotions.

Family and friendships are a blessing from God, opportunities to both share and receive His love through another. We must live in the midst of a caring community. Love must be shared. Life must be shared: taking care of one another, spending time with one another, fighting our battles for one another, taking care of one another, and building each other up. All relationships have a measure of inherent risk to them and we have to be willing to risk being vulnerable.

“Once upon a time I thought I was put on this earth to save my sister … that that wasn’t the point. The point was that I had a sister.” –Anna

My Sister’s Keeper avoids being overly manipulative, but the word subtle is not in the movie’s vocabulary. Between the family angst, courtroom drama, and the story of terminal illness ripped from the heart of every other Lifetime movie, it creates a jumbled stew of tonal unevenness which almost can’t be helped. Also, the movie pulls no punches in showing the reality of a disease eating away at a body as well as the toll of caring for the sick and dying, driving home the human condition (read: Nothing says tear jerker movie like copious buckets of vomit). Its saving grace, though probably adding to the tonal unevenness is how leavened with a gentle humor the movie is.

It’s an interesting counter program against the launch of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen this weekend.

Warning to my sister: yeah, you will cry through this whole thing.