A man wandering in the rain talks nonsense, laughs, and seems desperate. Sitting at a piano in a restaurant, he's troubling until his music floods the room. Based on the life of Australian pianist and international prodigy David Helfgott, who suffered a breakdown, then put his life back together, "Shine" is also about how the human spirit can heal.
Three actors play David: Rafalowicz is a child encouraged to excel at music and chess by a domineering father who, when his son places second in a national competition, screams, "You must always win!' Taylor is teenaged David; his father forbids him to take a scholarship offered by violin great Isaac Stern. Rush plays the adult David.
David's father, Peter (Mueller-Stahl), a Polish Jew, lost his family in the Holocaust, then resettled in Australia, and now puts family above everything. When David wants to study at London's Royal College of Music, he screams, "You'll destroy your family!' A tyrant, he demands David perfect his piano-playing, yet refuses to let him follow his career.
But an older woman (Withers) encourages him to go to London, where he studies with tutor Cecil Parkes (Gielgud), until he comes apart performing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3.
As a middle-aged man wandering Australia and chatting nonsense, he's all but forgotten. (Supposedly, Hicks came across Helfgott playing piano in a restaurant and got the idea for this film on hearing his story.) Key help is a middle-aged astrologer (Redgrave), who meets David through a friend; they fall in love, which saves him.
Child prodigies tend to excel in areas that don't require much knowledge of life or human nature for proficiency. David's piano playing comes naturally, but only later is it art - self-expression. The better he becomes, the closer he comes to terrifying feelings that his father imbued with guilt. David can't perform Rachmaninoff without being undone by emotion.
His father endures similar agonies, and can't deal with feelings his son's piano-playing unleash; he forbids David to study in Europe because David might thus leave forever, breaking up the sacred family. The last scene of the movie tries to acknowledge these things: Peter inflicted great damage, much upon himself. That David Helfgott lived through the events, triumphed, fell, then came slowly back, gives the film enormous meaning.
Geoffrey Rush, Noah Taylor, Alex Rafalowicz, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Lynn Redgrave, John Giel
David Helfgott. Australian pianist, nervous breakdown, recov
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