August Rush couldn’t be more of a fairy tale if it started with “once upon a time” and ended with “happily ever after.” And it will leave you feeling just as good as all those fairy tales you remember from your youth.
The plot is simple: Eleven-year-old orphan Even (Freddie Highmore) knows his parents are out there somewhere because he can “hear” them. He is weird and bullied and determined. Meanwhile, we get the back story on his parents, a pair of star-crossed musicians, a classically trained concert cellist (Keri Russell) and the singer of an Irish bar band (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who meet under a full, New York moon and spend one wonderful evening together, falling hopelessly, irrevocably in love. Yes, this is the kind of world where people can fall instantly in love and it will last an eternity… even if that night is the only one they have.
Even makes his way to New York and falls in with Wizard (Robin Williams), a Fagin-like Pied-Piper who awakens the prodigiously huge musical talent within the boy, renames him August Rush and looks to him to be his own salvation. And that’s as much of the plot as you’re going to get from me. You need to see it for yourself to see how it all plays out. I will tell you this, there are few surprises but it’s not about the destination – that’s pretty much determined from the get go – instead it’s more about the journey to get there.
This film is something rare in today’s cynical film scene – it’s unabashedly sentimental. It wears its heart on its sleeve and isn’t ashamed of doing so. In this way, it invites you to be a part of the magic. You, as an audience member, need to simply accept and let the film flow over you. There are logic problems, sure, and the willing suspension of disbelief is necessary but it is well worth it. If you let it, August Rush will fill you with a bit of the magic of the world.
Now, on to what I’m paid to do… the technical aspects of the film are slightly lacking. Director Kirsten Sheridan feels slightly shaky behind the camera, at times letting the reality overtake the fantasy she has created but, as this is only her second feature, I’m sure this is just a matter of her experience not being up to the task set for her by her creative vision.
The cast is wonderful. Keri Russell, who turns in her second magical performance of the year (Waitress was the first), is rapidly becoming a reason to see a film. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is understated and calm, in a role which could have easily gone the other way and Freddie Highmore, with his angelic smile, makes you believe he can really feel the music. The only misstep in casting is Robin Williams. He tries, but has a very hard time over-coming his smirk to really turn in the credible performance of which we know he is capable.
Finally, though, something should be said about the soundtrack. As a movie about the music which surrounds us all, the soundtrack had to be superb and in this, the filmmakers did not fail. The music department really comes through, creating the necessary soundscape to make this a complete movie. In the end, August Rush is a film to see now, while it’s fresh and in the theatres. It will remind you there is good in the world.
(Originally published at FirstShowing.net)