Power of Losing a Loved One in 'My Sister's Keeper' Movie

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Today l will be exploring the American drama film ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ directed by Nick Cassaevtes. Through the loss of autonomy and control, people respond in a variety of complex ways, revealing being willingly blind to the damage been done because of love.

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Kate Fitzgerald was diagnosed with leukemia. For the best chance of survival Kate needed a related donor for a bone marrow transplant. Jesse, her older brother was not a suitable candidate, so her parents made the unorthodox decision to genetically create a perfect match for Kate. For 11 years Anna served involuntarily, donating blood and plasma products to keep Kate alive until Anna no longer wanted to conform, creating conflict which threatens the foundations of their family. The Fitzgerald’s relationships are strong which is an assay of their braveness and close-nit bond as they face the challenges of personal identity and the fear of loss.

The fear of loss has evoked emotions including sadness, anger, resentment and perpetual love. Kate experiences a personal challenge in her endeavour to fight a terminal illness and her sister Anna, who is serving as Kate’s saviour, emotionally experiencing growth and learning from the intellectual experiences. The family collectively experiences the traumatic journey of loss.

Sara is motivated by her strong maternal instinct however her thantophobia makes her oblivious to the associated family crises and communication breakdown.

In order to closely analyse Kate’s desperate plea to her sister Anna to “release her”, the emotions love, fear and sadness are evoked by the composer to illustrate Kate’s trauma as she lies with blood dripping down her nose isolated in her room. Anna looks worn down as she helps Kate. The inconsistencies of human behaviour show the change in perspective whilst understanding the contrast between appearance and reality, knowing that cancer was not only killing her, it was killing her family.

The techniques used in this scene convey Anna’s devoted connection to her sister and this enlightens the audience to understand her perspective of reality on an intimate level. The lighting in this scene is dim and lacks colour representing the decline of life in Kate. The isolation of her hospital room is displayed with a mid-shot showing the physical pain she is suffering. She is weak from the constant fight quoting “Mums going to chop me and cut me till I’m a vegetable”. The metaphoric use of vegetables allows the audience to feel empathy as the closeup presents Kate in a vulnerable position. The scene has no music to ensure the emphasis is on Kate’s delicate words. A closeup of Kate with a blurred side angle of Anna’s head conveys the power been put onto Anna’s shoulders. This also shows the weakness in Kate as the angle was slanted down on to her, expressing the vulnerability in her words. All these techniques work in unity to show the cohesive message of emotional trauma and to convey the intended emotions felt by Anna and Kate, this reinforces the inconsistencies in Sara’s behaviour as she ignores Kates feelings because of the motivations of love and denial.

Another scene where my concept is revealed, Anna is suing her parents for medical emancipation, to gain control over her own body. Sara is confused on how Anna’s mindset changed so abruptly; knowing well she is hiding the truth. Jesse continuously interrupts and nags Anna to expose the truth. Anna repulses with a strong exterior, jesse eventually confronts Sara “Kate wants to die”.

This scene clearly conveys the paradoxes in Sara behaviour as she is blind to the turmoil, she is putting Kate through from the overpowering drive to keep Kate alive. The scene emphasises the reality of losing a loved one showing the clash of fear and love. The paradoxes of Anna suing her parents complements the intellectual experiences she faces as she is forced upon decision making with the pressure of being questioned as she makes the gut-wrenching decision of not doing the transplant.

Nick Cassavetes has chosen specific film techniques to express the deep emotions the characters express as there relationships are questioned. The emotions represented by extreme closeups which emphasises the fear rooted within. Sara is standing over Anna with tense body language and deep emotion in her eyes; the downwards angle looking down upon Anna represents the power Sara has over her vulnerable daughter. Sara uses repetition of “truth” giving an insight of the underlying truth being held back by Anna. After the confrontation slow and gentle music fades into the scene releasing the tension.

These techniques allow the audience to connect with characters emotion. This use of textual integrity allows the scene to convey the inconsistencies of Sara’s behaviour as she continues to defend her idea of Kate’s wellbeing and health.

“My Sister’s Keeper” uses human experience and textual integrity to established these emotions representing the experience of losing a loved one. The composer has positioned the audience to engage sympathetically with Anna and Kate. This gives the audience an insight into the inconsistencies of Sara’s love for her children oblivious to the harm she is causing.  

29 April 2022

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