My Sister's Keeper (Warner Bros. / New Line)

I'm not ashamed to say that I cry at the movies. Not frequently, but occasionally a story and its characters will grab hold of me to the extent that I'm completely caught up in the emotions and feelings being expressed. Films as disparate as John Ford's The Searchers and Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express have caused me to weep with joy, relief, and sorrow.

Despite a relentless barrage of scenes evidently designed with the sole goal of jerking tears, Nick Cassavetes' My Sister's Keeper did not make me cry. It is, however, one of the most glorious-looking terminal cancer pictures I've ever seen. Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (The Black Stallion, The Natural) paints the oft-mundane proceedings in an otherworldly glow, as though the transition to the next life had already begun. That's the guiding principle of the movie as a whole; even though an inflammatory and emotionally wrenching issue serves as the linchpin for the plot, great pains are taken to soften the blows so as not to inflict lasting damage upon the viewer.

Frankly, that latter point, much more than whether I personally shed tears, is what prevents My Sister's Keeper from escaping middlebrow territory. Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric are splendidly noble as Brian and Sara Fitzgerald, whose daughter Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) is diagnosed at a young age with leukemia. Brian and Sara conceive another child with genetic modifications so she can serve as a donor to her sister. Anna (Abigail Breslin) (*) seems fine with all the body part donations until Kate's condition worsens to the point that she needs a kidney transplant. Then 11-year-old Anna marches into the office of well-known lawyer Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) and demands medical emancipation from her parents.