I watched My Sister's Keeper last night. I delayed for one main reason: I loved the book and couldn't imagine the rich complexities of the story translated to the screen. Plus I knew I would sob like a baby and for that reason I could never see it in the theatre where I'd have to choke back my tears. I'm not a great public cryer, but I'm an excellent crybaby in the privacy of my own family room.
When a novel is translated to a screenplay, a central theme must be located and focused on. A movie is too confined to cover all of the characters and sub-plots which can be examined in detail in a book. I've read Jodi Picoult's book several times, and each time it guts me in a new way as a mother. I'm drawn to each character in turn as they struggle through an impossible life and death family situation with no easy answers.
In the movie, the narrow focus was on Cameron Diaz as the mother, and her intense relationship with her sick daughter. I'm not a Cameron Diaz fan. I couldn't believe the casting when it was announced, and I simply could not visualize her in the role. I changed my mind about halfway through the movie, when I realized that she was using rage to get through her days, fighting a terrifying enemy with layers of prickly anger to insulate herself against pain.
I saw myself, as though I was looking in a mirror. Anger is my standard defense mechanism, providing me with a false level of control over situations where there is no way to be in control. I watched the mother character bend over backwards and kill herself trying to keep her daughter alive, and knew that I would do the same in a heartbeat. She isolated herself from her husband and her other kids, all in a single-minded focus on her dying child. She was going to keep her alive at all costs, just to prove that she could.
It hurt to watch this portrayal, in full vivid colour, of the darker side of my obsessive personality. You can't fault the mother for fighting for her daughter's life, any mom would do the same, but it was her dogged perseverance, soaked in boiling rage, that resonated so deeply with me. She needed to let go, and she couldn't, and this is the story of my life to this point.
I know I'm improving, but the progress is so very slow and often discouraging. We all have our coping mechanisms, and I cope by fighting, making lots of noise and smoke, to cover whatever insecurities are rolling around inside. I tend to come out swinging, and my rigid inflexibility reveals itself, and it must be my way or the highway. When I see this in William, it frightens me, because I want him to take a more moderate view, even though this "never quit" attitude has served me well as an adult.
The father in the movie, played by Jason Patric, was so much like Jason that I immediately recognized his character qualities. He was impulsive and fun, where his wife was immovable and intense. She needed him to help her relax and stop obsessing over what she couldn't control. When she eventually had her turning point, and accepted the inevitable, I found it emotionally cathartic.
As long as I am alive, I can change and improve. I can learn, ever so slowly, to let go of my anger and sense of manic control, and relax into the moment. I can try not to fight the current of life as it carries me along, and recognize that no one can control everything that happens to them. I can try to let go, a little at a time, until I'm not so rigid with my own life.