Teenage pianist David (Taylor) has all the usual problems and then some. His father, a Polish-Jewish immigrant in working-class Perth, Australia, places such a burden of hope on his son that he won't let him leave the family nest, and insists on his working towards 'The Rach 3' - Rachmaninov's bone-crunching 3rd Piano Concerto - whether he's ready for such a super-virtuoso piece or not. With a scholarship to London's Royal College of Music there for the taking, the future has some tough questions to ask, answered by a nervous collapse of cataclysmic proportions, years of psychological damage, and a painful recovery sprung from the most unlikely surroundings - requests for the popular classics in a Perth wine bar. Scott Hicks' film, where the rites-of-passage pic meets high-falutin' backstage melodrama, is based on the true story of the prodigy David Helfgott, whose flashing finger work we hear on the soundtrack. Stage actor Geoffrey Rush has total command of the mature artist's chattering eccentricities and with striking on-screen keyboard skills creates a characterisation so minutely observed you expect him to stride naked off the screen. Helfgott's turbulent personal history fits few preconceived patterns. Entirely attuned, Hicks' switchback time-scheme reserves a canny facility for surprise as it guides us round a fine supporting cast - Gielgud (ripe old piano tutor), Mueller-Stahl (a stage papa to reckon with), Lynn Redgrave (warmly supportive spouse) - while the music comes over as if life itself depended on it. Compassionate, deft, unsentimental, inspirational.
Cast and crew