Rated R –language

John Gielgud and Geoffrey Rush

Shine chronicles the troubled but ultimately triumphant life of classical pianist David Helfgott, focusing on Helfgott's painful retreat into a private world while still in his early 20's and on the brink of a career of international acclaim. Spanning the 1950's to the 1980's, Shine dramatizes Helfgott's achievement, after a decade of obscurity, of both personal and professional fulfillment through the love and support of a remarkable woman. The Austrailian film employs an impressionistic musical structure to counterpoint past and present.

Joining Geoffrey Rush as the adult Helfgott is an ensemble cast that includes Armin Mueller-Stahl (Avalon, The Music Box) as his obsessive and possessive father, Noah Taylor (Flirting, The Year My Voice Broke) as the adolescent Helfgott, Lynn Redgrave as the woman who marries him and helps him back from emotional breakdown, and John Gielgud as his music professor in London. Scott Hicks directed.

"This is a story that has fascinated me for years," Hicks says, "...a story about a winner, an unlikely hero who achieves the one thing we all desire: he finds his own place in the world, and someone with whom to share life, love, and music. His story is very uplifting and compelling."

Hicks stresses that, "David's music is one thing; David's story is another. It touches people because they recognize that clearly it is about redemption. It's about being able to survive experiences that none of us would want and to come out on the other side–in love, loved, and playing music to audiences."

This film has an interesting juxtaposition of religious subthemes. David's family are Jewish ethnically, but when a piano teacher suggests that they can raise money for a trip to America for study by having a bar mitzva for David, his holocaust-refugee father replies, "religion is nonsense." Nevertheless, he eventually decides to go through with the rite even though he never does agree to let his under-age son leave for study abroad. After his breakdown, when David is a patient in a mental hospital, it is an organist in an Anglican church who rediscovers him and brings him into the world again, and there are brief scenes of him assisting her in her church music duties. But for his final redemption, it is a new-age astrologer who takes up his case and, after he asks her to marry him she does some computer-based study of the planets before deciding to give back the ring from a fiance she doesn't love enough, and to marry David instead. Though this is a fictionalization of a real life, presumably these touches are based on reality, not inserted to convey any arcane message.

This is a moving story excellently told. Fineline Films has an exceptional web site featuring Shine, complete with moving photos and sound clips, at

Photo by the film's distributor

1997, Jon Kennedy