Shine Movie Review

In Hollywood, you just can't make a movie like Shine. Put simply, it is just not allowed.

This is our loss and Australia's gain, because Shine comes off as one of the upper-echelon films of the year, an ambitious and unflinching look at that country's David Helfgott, a prodigy of a pianist driven insane by his father, only to emerge again after 20 years of institutionalization.

The film tracks David's tumultuous life from young boy (Alex Rafalowicz) to young man (Flirting's Noah Taylor) to adulthood (Australian stage actor Geoffrey Rush). David's father Peter (Armin Mueller-Stahl) pushes young David so hard (his motto: "Win! Win! Win!") that his mind slowly crumbles before our very eyes. And while Peter wants David to be The Best, he doesn't want him away from home, and his overprotectionism, combined with Peter's insistence that David master Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto (the "Rach 3," considered one of the most difficult piano pieces ever written), eventually drives David over the edge.

Extremely compelling for a film that is essentially a character study of one man, Shine succeeds by leaving out no detail and by masterfully using the camera to capture an inner turmoil that would be impossible for us to feel otherwise. Exquisite is the string of five-star performances by Rush, Taylor (a favorite of mine), Mueller-Stahl, and supporting players John Gielgud and Lynn Redgrave. Rush's frantic jabbering as the insane adult Helfgott so perfectly captures the mood that he deserves (and is receiving) serious notice. And let me not forget the music, which is awe-inspiring (especially the unbelievable Rach 3), and which makes you want to applaud after each piece is performed.

Shine isn't flawless, though -- the biggest problem is a serious defect in the sound quality, normally no big deal, but inexcusable in a film about music. The roundabout plot structure will not appeal to every filmgoer, and when the movie was over, I felt a bit cheated by the lack of a real ending. (Helfgott has returned to sanity and is allegedly going to play at the Oscars if Shine is nominated -- an event that the film, as it stands, would never portend.) [Note that Helfgott did play at the Oscars and Jan Sardi wrote to say that the sound problems should have been present at my screening only -- he was right. -Ed.]

I guess you can't have everything. But maybe leaving the audience hungry for more was the whole idea.

Taylor as the young adult Helfgott.


Shine Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG-13, 1996


More Geoffrey Rush

Close, But No Cigar: Critics Agree That 'The Book Thief' Hits a Bum Note

Like many films, The Book Thief is based on an internationally renown and bestselling book of the same name. Unfortunately, the cinematic adaptation hasn’t managed...

The Book Thief Movie Review

While there's a strong story in here about the power of literature and the fragility of life, this movie takes a far too wistful approach,...

Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin & Angela Lansbury Earn Honorary Recognition From The Academy’s Governors Awards

Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin and Angela Lansbury were honoured on Saturday, 16 November, night at the Academy’s Governors Awards, in a night where emotions ran...

'The Book Thief'- A Film Adaptation Dealing With Nazi-Era Germany, Review Round-Up

'The Book Thief' is the latest Hollywood film adaptation to hit the big screen. The movie, which is based on the novel of the same...


In 2014 'The Book Thief' Movie Will Transfer An Excellent, Heart-Wrenching Story To The Silver Screen [Trailer]

For those who have read and loved Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, the film trailer below has been a long time coming. Anyone who hasn’t...

The Book Thief Trailer

Liesel Meminger is a 9-year-old girl who is forced to be separated from her family for her own safety. She goes to live with another...

Geoffrey Rush Chats To A Fan Whilst Out In Manhattan

'The King's Speech' actor Geoffrey Rush sits on a bench in Manhattan with one leg resting on top of the other whilst he checks his...

Green Lantern Trailer

For millions of years, the universe has been watched over by a group of noble custodians, sworn to keep peace in the universe, these mighty...