Adapted by Frank Cottrell Boyce from a book by Hilary and Piers du Pre, the sister and brother of famed cellist Jacqueline du Pre, Hilary And Jackie is an astoundingly moving and elegiac meditation on life, love, music, and the bonds of blood. The film follows the paths of two talented musician sisters: Emily Watson (Jackie) travels the world as an accomplished cellist, her path determined by her passionate playing. The flute-playing Rachel Griffiths (Hilary), on the other hand, falls in love, gets married, and moves to the country. But which sister is better off? After a brisk and efficient start, director Anand Tucker sends the story in a darker, more complex direction. First, he focuses on Griffiths' peaceful and humble home, which is interrupted by Watson's tumultuous return. Then he again portrays the events that transpired over the same stretch of time, only this time from Watson's increasingly troubled perspective. Once the lives of both sisters intersect in the film's present, and Watson's strange behavior is linked to Multiple Sclerosis, it becomes sadly apparent just how far apart the two have grown, and just how hard it will be to mend the rift caused by time and absence. Much of the film glows with a golden hue, as if in a state of constant sunset, but Tucker knows when to cloak his actors in an eerie blue haze, or when to approximate Watson's bleary physical state with evocative camera tricks. Watson's portrayal of the advanced stages of MS, and the tragedy of seeing a brilliant career reduced to nothingness, is vivid but never over-the-top. Months of preparation went into beefing up her cello skills, and the person on screen never seems less than possessed by her instrument. Griffiths' role is less flashy by necessity, but her stable performance proves mutually enhancing when she interacts with Watson. Hilary And Jackie is a remarkable statement about a musician's relationship with her art, but on a less lofty, more personal level, the film is mesmerizing and deeply affecting.

Advertisement