'Hilary and Jackie' is the stuff that sibling rivalries are made of.
Pleasant ones that is. As one of the most human stories of 1998, the
film has the classic detail of what is supposed to happen while
preparing a film script to go before the cameras. Director Anand Tucker
has pictured the entire structure of the film inside his head perfectly
and has elevated it to the screen with a unique and even structure that
tells an old fashioned tale with the highest of culture. And, like
1996's 'Shine', Tucker makes the film about family even though it will
be mistaken by many to be about music, which is its secondary theme.
No technical aspect of a motion picture is more important than the use
of its music soundtrack. I remember some years ago at the Oscar
ceremonies that a clip was shown from several motion pictures without
their music background and the audience laughed at how preposterous it
was and then broke into applause when the same scenes were shown with
their music included, showing a stark contrast that allowed people to
breath a sigh of relief at just how important music is to a film.
'Hilary and Jackie' has a beautiful classical score that overwhelms the
audience with genuine emotion and makes it even more memorable than it
would be with a lesser emphasis on musical harmony.
Jaqueline du Pré (Emily Watson) is a cellist and her sister Hilary
(Rachel Griffiths) plays the flute. From the time they were children,
their parents instilled in them a sense of musical pride and guided them
through their studies to the level of professionals when they were still
in their teens. Based on a true story set primarily in the 60's and
70's, the film has exquisite cinematography that sings a harmonic tune
all its own.
The two women marry early in life and and while Hilary is clearly the
more mature of the two, talent is surely abound in all forms of human
personality. The true line that tests the theory of genius being formed
on the brink of the human mind gone mad, the film touches on this fact
without becoming heavy handed and the film proclaims that sometimes one
needs family around them when all other forms of personal contact seem
Children are forthcoming in their marriages and as the film progresses,
the story throws itself deeper and deeper into the ocean in personal
relationships that never seems tiresome or too intrusive but rather a
theme that many can relate to.
Emily Watson made her film debut in 1996's 'Breaking the Waves' and
received an Oscar nomination for it. This film (her 5th in three years)
will almost certainly bring her her second nomination and she is even
more powerful in this movie than in 'Breaking the Waves'. Her portrayal
of Jaqueline du Pré in 'Hilary and Jackie' is complex, showing her
genius for playing the cello while growing to despise playing it later
in life. But this fact is never quite put across in a convincing manner
and that isn't a negative reflection on the film. It simply means that
Jaqueline du Pré, I believe, really wanted to play but was afraid of
success and how her life might change while mastering her craft.
Without giving too much away for those unfamiliar with how this true
story ends, let's just say that after viewing this film, you will not
only have a deeper appreciation of music and film, but these things will
seem small when seeing just how large the human heart can be.
Copyright © 1998 Walter Frith