“The Memory Keeper’s Daughter”

Memory Keeper's DaughterBy Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
October 10, 2008

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is an emotional drama dealing with a family secret that eventually destroys a family.  David (Dermot Mulroney) and Norah (Gretchen Mol) are the perfect couplel; he is a highly regarded physician and she is his beautiful, young, blond wife.

Unable to get his wife to the hospital during a blizzard, David delivers their twins himself. A boy is born first–pink, ruddy, and healthy–but the baby girl is a “mongoloid” who has Down Syndrome.

There’s a saying that some doctors suffer from a God complex, and it would seem that David is one of them; instead of sharing the news with his wife after she wakes up, he makes the decision that he will tell her that only their son survived. He orders his nurse Caroline (Emily Watson) to take his daughter to an institution.

There is a feeling of unrest and uncertainty as the characters sense that something isn’t quite right. Norah, who never got to say goodbye to her baby, has never been able to get closure and is in a constant state of grieving. David lives with the guilt of what he has done, but doesn’t really think he did anything wrong. Even their son feels that something is missing from his life.

Caroline, who had always been a loner, winds up having the most complete life. Defying David’s orders, she takes the little girl, Phoebe, and runs away with her to raise the girl as her own.

At turns poignant and at other times maudlin, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter offers some excellent acting by the leads. Watson in particular shows depth and compassion. To a certain extent, she is the moral compass of the film, but she also is the film’s heart.

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