Scott Hicks's film recounts the true story of piano prodigy David Helfgott (Rush), whose abuse suffered at the hands of his exacting father Peter (Mueller-Stahl) only aggravates an already precarious emotional state. Eventually, his mental affliction catches up with him and derails a promising concert career. Yet David has unexpected reserves of determination that eventually allow him to recover — and even find love with a kind, supportive astrologer named Gillian (Redgrave).
This often disturbing and ultimately inspiring feature benefits from a terrific script and an astonishing, Oscar-winning performance by Rush as the adult David. (Noah Taylor also excels playing Helfgott as an adolescent.) Mueller-Stahl is every bit as good, making your skin crawl as David's haunted, obsessive dad. Look for John Gielgud playing one of David's early teachers. In terms of dramatic storytelling, this film shines indeed.