The movie "Shine," the story of pianist David Helfgott, entrances its viewer from beginning to end without having to rely on spectacular explosions or over-muscled superheroes. Instead, it narrates the story of Helfgott from his childhood through middle age in a subtle, yet telling way. Helfgott is portrayed superbly by Golden Globe winner Geoffrey Rush, who is able to capture the emotions of the prodigy and endear him to the viewer in a subtle, unassuming way.
The movie takes its viewer through Helfgott's life, beginning as a child in a small town in Australia. His father, a former concentration camp prisoner, pushes his son to be the best. Second place is never good enough, yet he refuses to send his son to a professional instructor who could push David to the next level. His father eventually gives in and allows his son to take piano lessons from a private instructor, enabling Helfgott to eventually win his country's National Competition. When offered a scholarship at a prestigious American Music School, Helfgott is forbidden to go by his father, whose years in a Nazi concentration camp have left him with a profound fear of seeing his family separated. When David finally decides to attend the Royal Academy of Music in England, he is disowned by his father for abandoning the family. Once at the Academy, David excels in his music with the help of his professor, Cecil Parkes, and the encouragement of his friend, Katharine Susannah Prichard, an elderly writer.
At the Academy's Music Concerto Competition, David captivates his audience with a spellbinding rendition of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. Yet tragedy strikes just seconds after finishing the piece, when Helfgott collapses after suffering a nervous breakdown. The movie then fast-forwards ahead 20 years. Helfgott is in a mental institution where he is forbidden to play the piano out of fear he will suffer another breakdown. He is eventually released and reunited with his beloved piano. He stumbles into a job entertaining at a local pub, meets a woman who befriends him and cares for him at her home, and eventually marries her best friend. Yet all these occurrences pale in comparison to Helfgott's only true love, his music. The emotions conveyed during Helfgott's scenes of piano playing are incredible, pulling the viewer in and evoking emotions that are almost indescribable. "Shine" is a truly marvelous film depicting the life of an ingenious man and the passion he tried to tame
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.