Shine. David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush) is a gifted pianist. But his promising talent as a concert pianist never reached the heights experts—his father included—expected of him. This film, by Australian director Scott Hicks, a former TV documentary maker, shows why, allowing Helfgott’s story to unfold in a tragic way.
Like a slow-motion car accident, it is sometimes almost too painful to watch. As a young boy, Helfgott (played as a youth by Alex Rafalowicz) was cited as possibly the best pianist of his generation and the next big thing in classic piano. This talent, however, wilted under the overwhelming and presence of his father (played by Armin Mueller-Stahl). He’s a man who lost his parents in the gas chambers and her certainly loves his son—but does not have a clue how to understand or manage his talent. It is the father’s mistakes about his son that ultimately destroy the boy’s burgeoning career.
Mentally fragile, Helfgott’s prodigious skill at the piano surfaces only at the rarest times. Shine, for all its sadness, contains some of the most lustrous cinematic moments in memory, if only through juxtaposition with its bleaker instances. Based on a true story, this intense drama disturbingly reinforces the idea that suffering might just be the key for some artistic geniuses.