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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A child sues her parents for medical emancipation while her terminally ill sister waits for her to donate a kidney. It sounds grim, but there’s actually a lot of love here -- the family is supportive of one another, though they're also suffering from the worries and fears attendant to the situation.
Positive Role Models
Family members stick together through thick and thin and are able to mine a deep wellspring of love and understanding.
Violence & Scariness
A mother screams in anger and frustration at her husband and tries to block the van he’s driving. A mom slaps a child.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A teenage girl falls in love with a boy and nearly consummates their relationship (they're shown under covers holding each other, but later on, she intimates that she didn't go all the way). They also kiss and make out. Parents trade mild sexual innuendoes.
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"Goddammit," "s--t," "bitch," "hell," "damn," "oh my God," and one "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
Products shown/mentioned include 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, and Chevrolet.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A teen is briefly shown tipsy and holding a bottle, seemingly having gotten drunk because she's angry at her condition. Social drinking by adults.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this tearjerking drama explores some heavy themes that younger audiences may find difficult to process without guidance. A teenager is terminally ill, and her march to the end is painful: She vomits after chemo, her hair and eyebrows fall out, and more. The effects of her illness on her family are are similarly heartbreaking to watch. The film also touches on teenage sexuality and drinking and has some fairly infrequent swearing, including "f--k" and "s--t." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Based on Jodi Picoult's same-named novel, MY SISTER'S KEEPER is a bona fide tearjerker. Given the subject matter, how could it not be? Director Nick Cassavetes has coaxed amazing performances from his first-rate cast, including Diaz, who surprises with the strength of her rage and melancholy as a mother determined not to see her child die. And the film does well what many other dramas about illness don't: examine the toll that a prolonged sickness takes on everyone, not just the patient. The sibling relationships are especially nuanced; power imbalances are believably rendered right alongside deep familial love.
What keeps the film from achieving greatness is largely due to its structure. Characters tell their stories one at a time; it moves the plot along, but sometimes a little coercively. (There's a courtroom case embedded in the plotline, so the voiceovers do seem to make sense here. Nevertheless, they drain some of the power.) The movie tells you how to feel instead of taking you there.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate