Australia in the 1950s: the young David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush) excels at the piano, but his domineering father (Armin Mueller-Stahl) forbids him to accept a scholarship to study further. David struggles to escape his father’s restrictions and travels to England, where his genius is recognised.
But then he suffers a setback that will change his life forever.
Although reservations have been expressed about the accuracy of the “facts” in this film based on the life of gifted but deeply troubled Australian pianist David Helfgott, the resulting drama is still an exhilarating and uplifting screen experience.
While it was Geoffrey Rush who took many of the plaudits, including the best actor Oscar for his stunning performance as Helfgott, it’s the cinematic acumen of director Scott Hicks that prevents this often harrowing story from turning into melodramatic mush.
From the overlooked Noah Taylor as the young Helfgott, Googie Withers as the writer who launched Helfgott’s career through to Lynn Redgrave as the future wife who saved him, the performances are of extraordinary quality, with an astonishing screen debut from stage star Rush as the mumbling musician.
David Helfgott (adolescent)
Katharine Susannah Prichard