It’s a 2009 movie and I remembered reading it from a friend’s blog. I just thought of watching it today. And it turned out to be a cleansing exercise for my eyes. Tear-inducing movie it is.
The movie started with Anna somewhere looking far into the distance with snippets of happy family memories as background. She is narrating about how a life is created and how she is different from that normal process because she is genetically conceived. Engineered and tailored to make a specific combination of genes. Far from being a result of coincidence or accidents, she was born for a particular reason. It was to be a perfect match for her sister, she was created to save her sister’s life.
The story revolved around a family who got a sick member – Kate – Anna’s big sister. Kate is terribly sick, she got cancer, she has leukemia. There was the mother who loves her family very much that she gave up so much in order to keep it together when Kate got sick. She gave up her job and her life now only revolves on keeping Kate alive. Kate and Anna have a big brother Jesse who seems to be a troubled youth and has a learning disability because he is a dyslexic. But as Anna described it, their family is a little dysfunctional but everybody loves each other and they do the best they can. The story showed their everyday lives just like what normal families do. They play together, eat together, joke around over dinner, and laugh together. As their father narrated it:
“Sure, we still enjoy the usual day-to-day happinesses of family life. Big house. great kids. beautiful wife. But beneath the exterior
there are cracks… …resentments… alliances that threaten the very foundation of our lives… as at any moment our whole worldcould come tumbling down.”
The father knows that their happiness is fragile if not short-lived because since Kate got sick so many things have changed not to mention taken for granted.
Kate is 15 and Anna is 11. Their family has been fighting this battle with Kate’s sickness for 14 years already. And as part of that battle, Anna was one of the weapons.
The real story started with Anna selling her gold locket necklace in order to hire a top notch lawyer because she is going to sue her parents for medical emancipation and rights to her own body. Jesse dropped her off at the lawyer’s office on the day that she hired the lawyer’s services for him to be the one to tell her parents that they can’t take her body parts without her permission. She told the lawyer that her sister is in renal failure for months now so they will take her kidney next. They have been doing it to her her whole life. That she wouldn’t even be alive if Kate wasn’t sick. She’s a designer baby made to be spare parts for Kate. At first the lawyer thought she was lying but the medical records she has brought with her aren’t. the doctors started taking things from her the moment she was born and those have their own negative effects taking a toll on Anna’s health as well. She has also been into so many hospitalizations and infections because of those procedures. And now they will be taking her kidney which will greatly affect the quality of her life moving forward. The lawyer asked Anna if she knows what will happen if she doesn’t give her sister her kidney. Anna answered unblinkingly – “Yeah. She’ll die.”
It was shown how scary and tough and painful the journey of the sickness is to Kate. She is vomiting blood, lots of it. Her mouth and her nose are dripping with blood. She can’t eat well, she is bald, she is always in bed, she can’t go out and just always most of the time stuck in her room. Through it all their family was together. The siblings love each other and it was very clear in the story. They take care of each other. The 2 sisters love each other so much. They share secrets, they play together and they bond together. Anna loves her sister and so it was a puzzle on what brought her to sue her parents.
The court case has been delivered to Sara (their mother) in Kate’s hospital room. Then there was a heated argument that ensued between Sara and Anna that ended up with Sara slapping Anna, because Anna is indignant with the case despite knowing what will happen if she will not donate her kidney.
They had a family meeting where Anna was given a chance to explain herself and what brought her to going to the extent of suing her parents. Her stand was like this, what is going to happen to her if she will only have one kidney. Will she not be allowed to play sports, be a cheerleader or get pregnant. What if she wants to live a long time. Her dad assured her that she can live a long time. Then she asked, what if the transplant doesn’t work, what will happen then. For this her mother has only one answer: “She is your sister.” As the argument went on and they yelled at each other, Anna has one last stand as she told her mom “I’m important too Mom. I’m important too.”
That night she stayed at the fire fighters’ place where her dad works because her mom doesn’t want to see her. While she is having fun with the fire fighters, eating and playing with them, her dad just stared and some realizations dawned upon him. That maybe his daughter’s decision against donating her kidney is not at all crazy. He told his wife that they can’t force Anna in this because if they do she is going to look at them like they forced and used her and she’ll be right on that. But Sara still can’t see this side of the picture and asked her husband whose side is he on, where he answered: “Side. What sides? Are there sides now?”
It was a situation where he has to consider both Kate and Anna. They are both his daughters and both their welfare is not a matter of sides.
The confrontation between Sara and Atty Campbell at his law office is something where you can think that Sara is so blinded by her being a mother to sick Kate that she didn’t want to listen nor look at Anna’s situation. Because of her will to save her daughter, she has forgotten that she is also Anna’s mother, she is also Jesse’s mother.
Sara: You almost had me believing that you cared about Anna.Atty Campbell: Funny. l was about to say the same thing to you. Mrs. Fitzgerald. did you ever say to yourself: Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe l took it a little too far?
Sara is a mother and like any other mother would do anything and everything for their children. There was one time when Kate is depressed and doesn’t want to go out, she is also feeling insecure with people staring at her because she is bald and she looks really sick and she calls herself ugly and a freak. Sara without a second thought shaved her head bald to comfort and share her daughter’s suffering. They took plenty of pictures that day.
Then Kate was looking at those pictures at the scrapbook she made. She is thinking to herself that this is it. She knows she is going to die, she has always known that but just doesn’t know when. She is not worried about it but she is worried that it is killing her family too.
“I don’t mind my disease killing me. But it’s killing my family too. While everyone was so worried about my blood counts… they barely even noticed that Jesse was dyslexic. I’m sorry, Jesse. I’m sorry I took all the attention when you were the one who needed it the most. Dad. I know I took your first love from you. I only hope that one day you get her back. Mom, you gave up everything for me. Your work, your marriage, your entire life.. Just to fight my battles for me every single day. I’m sorry you couldn’t win. And to my baby sis who was always so very little… I’m sorry l let them hurt you. I’m sorry l didn’t take care of you. It was supposed to be
the other way around.”
During the first hearing of the case, the judge talked to Anna. Their conversation will even lead you to more confusion because when the judge asked Anna her every answer and thought only points to one thing – she loves her sister dearly. She doesn’t mind taking care of her sister, she likes it in fact. When she was asked if she gets along with her sister. Anna’s answer is plain and simple and tells it all – “Of course. She’s my sister.” Then she stared blankly and was transported to those good old days when she’s just having fun times with her big sister. And without knowing it, her tears fell.
Back at the hospital, Kate talked to her doctor to ask him “how long”. The doctor answered her honestly “not too long”. But he promised that he will make it not painful.
Kate is worn out with all the treatments and dialysis, but all day long she’s been talking about going to the beach. I really cried at this part because the father and the mother have their own way of loving and fighting for their daughter’s life which is slowly being sucked away from them. Sara doesn’t want to let go and would fight with gritted teeth until the end. She is adamant of taking Kate back to the hospital and not letting her go to the beach. She even threatened her husband with divorce to which he consented. But the father in his own way of loving his daughter wanted to do something that she really wants that would make her happy and comfort her even at least for a short time. He discharged Kate from the hospital for one day and took her to the beach along with Jesse and Anna. He and Kate just sat at the shore looking at the sea, the sunset, at Jesse and Anna playing and feeding the birds. They spent quality time, the father and the daughter. I wonder what thoughts are running through Kate’s mind that time. Maybe she’s just thinking of her family, how they loved her, how she loves them. Sara eventually followed at the beach and she made peace and kissed her husband and hugged and cuddled Kate. It was like a picture of a mother’s hug, like if only it could take all of Kate’s pain and sickness away, it was that kind of hug.
At the last court hearing the doctors were called as witnesses and there was one question to which the answer was nicely stated by Kate’s primary doctor.
Atty Campbell: But can you tell us one single benefit… that Anna has received from any of these procedures?Dr. Chance: Yes. She got to save her sister’s life.
During the hearing’s recess, Anna called Kate at the hospital. And their conversation is something that answers the question of what brought Anna to have this court case.
Anna: I don’t know if I can do this anymore sissy.
Kate answered in her very weak voice,
“It’s gonna be okay. You hear me? I promise.”
When it is time for Sara to sit at the plaintiff her appeal went like this:
Atty Campbell: Mrs. Fitzgerald. looking back and only taking into account Anna’s well-being… do you think it’s reasonable to conclude that you might have taken this too far?Sara: Looking at only Anna’s situation… yes, it is. But l have to think about my entire family. But kate comes first because she is sick.Atty Campbell: Compromising one child’s health on behalf of the other. Where’s the line?Sara: For Kate. it’s life or death.Atty Campbell: Not for Kate. for Anna. She’s why we’re here.Sara: That’s a trick question. Because Anna isn’t the only person in this equation. And if we were looking at it only from Anna’s situation. sure. it is brutal. I mean who wants to be stuck and poked and prodded by needles? And you can look at me and you can say how awful I am for doing that to my child. You know what? It is awful. But it’s not.. as awful as putting your child in the ground.Atty Campbell: You stand up for your family.Sara: It’s my job.Atty Campbell: And you stand up for Kate.Sara: I do.Atty Campbell: But the real question is: Who stands up for Anna?
It was a question left hanging.. left unanswered.. not until Jesse was fed up and spilled the beans shedding light to the root of all these. It was Kate who wanted Anna to stop the transplant, it was the big sister’s request to her little sister in an attempt to protect her and do her role as the big sister. She knew that it’s already the end of the road for her. Kate knows that their mother won’t let go until the end and will still fight for it no matter what. So she asked her little sister the favor that only she can do.. It is to release her already from the shackles of the sickness. She wants to die already. But in the process of this favor, she is also releasing her sister from being her savior. Now she is her little sister’s savior. She wants Anna to continue to live with a normal life.. with a quality life. All those reasons Anna said during their family meeting of wanting to play sports, being a cheer leader, getting pregnant and living a long life, and being important too.. all those are reasons that Kate told Anna while they were talking about it at their home. During that same conversation between the sisters, Anna asked Kate is she is scared of dying, but Kate said no she’ll be okay. But in truth, it was Anna who is scared of her sister going away. She asked if Kate will wait for her wherever she may be going. Because she is afraid she won’t know where to find her sister. The question of who stands up for Anna was answered. It was Kate who stood up and wanted to take care of her sister.
Anna wanted and is willing to donate her kidney for her sister. She loves Kate as much as Kate loves her. She went to the ordeal of going through this trial for the same reason. Sara knew this that’s why she is confused why suddenly Anna is doing this and insisting when she was questioning Anna at court that this isn’t like her. The mother knew her daughters love each other and Anna is very much willing to donate her kidney if this will save her sister.
Then all the family members and relatives gathered at the hospital. The three siblings hugged each other. Kate requested to be left alone with their mom. She showed her the scrapbook she made. There was a touching message for her mother:
“I have a guardian angel who watched over me every second of everyday no matter how sick I am I know I am never alone.”
Sara had been a great mother. She fought her daughter’s battle for 14 years. She may have taken for granted somethings. But nevertheless, she tried and did her best for her entire family.
The rest of the scrapbook are memories with her family showing how much she treasures everything. Then they lay at the bed together and that night she died, perhaps in her mom’s arms.
Atty Campbell delivered the court’s decision to Anna. They won the case.
The family continued to live their lives and they always go to the same place every year during Kate’s birthday. This is the place where Anna was shown at the beginning of the movie where she first narrated the circumstances and particular reason for her conception. She reminisced everything and shared her most important realization through it all – she thought she was put on earth to save her sister but she realized that that was not the point.
“The point was i had a sister. She was fantastic. One day. I’m sure i’ll see her again. But until then… our relationship continues.”
I chose that picture above to represent the movie instead of the movie’s promotional poster because for me, that scene of the heartfelt conversation between the sisters is filled with emotions that tug to the heart giving life to the movie’s title “My Sister’s Keeper”.
One of the most wonderful things you can experience in this world is to have a sister. A sister with whom you can share both tangible and intangible things. She’s someone with whom you share emotions, thoughts, ideas, hobbies, books, interests, problems, worries, stories and those other material things and you share parents as well of course. But one thing you have that only you sisters can share is the bond. That sisterly bond like no other. Unlike with friends even if you are separated you have that string that keeps you from drifting away. If you have a sister you should be really thankful you are blessed with one. Actually whether it is a sister or a brother as long as it is a sibling you love and for sure loves you too, one should be very thankful for such a blessing. The little sister thought she is her sister’s keeper. But at the end of the day it was still the big sister who took responsibility and was all along her little sister’s keeper. The movie reminded me of how beautiful, amazing and wonderful it is to have a sister. I love my sister too.. very much. Let’s stay healthy sister with our mother and father. Let the four of us stay healthy together.
This movie made me cry. I feel like crying again.