Dan In Real Life

Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell and Freddie Highmore. Directed by Kirsten Sheridan
Running Time: 114 mins
Rated: Rated PG (mild themes and infrequent violence)

If you are a reader of reviews by the more 'serious' critics, you will find a rather universal dismissal of this film as far too emotional and sentimental. If you are a reader of reviews which try to communicate with the general audience, you will find the film praised for its entertainment and values - and the admission that it is unashamedly emotional and full of sentiment. It was W. Somerset Maugham who remarked that sentimentality is only the sentiment you disapprove of.

I very much liked August Rush - and it was very tear-inducing, especially because of its joy and happiness.

This is a modern fairytale full of coincidences of plot that would have made Dickens both tearful and pleased.

It is also a film about sound and music. The writer, director, musical director and composer, sound engineer have all been at great pains to alert audiences to the myriad sounds around us, even the clanging and shrill blasts of the inner city. They are all part of nature's and human enterprises' contribution to potential music.

Evan Taylor is a young orphan, bullied at the orphanage, especially because he claims to hear his parents. His are the ears through which we listen to the world's and the universe's music.

We then learn who his parents were, their individual stories (both musicians, he modern, she classical), their briefest of encounters, the forces that pulled them apart, their not knowing they had a son. Jonathan Rhys Meyers takes a break from villains and Henry VIII to play Louis, the Irish father. Keri Russell, who was so good in Waitress, is the American cellist mother.

The good news is that Freddie Highmore is Evan. After Finding Neverland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, A Good Year, we know that he is a talented and pleasing screen personality. He runs away from the orphanage to find his parents hoping that the social worker, Terrence Howard, will help.

I don't know if I have made this sound like a modern Oliver Twist, but it is, especially when Evan befriends a young street musician and The Wiz, the partly humorous, partly sinister man who takes care of the group of boys and the money they get from busking. He is played with some glee and some frightening intensity by Robin Williams. The Wiz wants to be his manager and exploit him with the name, August Rush.

The rest of the story concerns Evan's encountering an African American church which recognizes his musical genius. He studies, composes and, like Oliver, falls into the hands of The Wiz who becomes more and more like Bill Sykes. And there is an ending, full of music, which will have all but the most hardened sensibilities (the critics!!) reaching for tissues.

Kirsten Sheridan wrote In America (full of sentiment also). She is the daughter of Jim Sheridan (The Field, My Left Foot).

Magna PacificOut February 21

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting

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