by Laura Tucker
“I believe in music, the same way some people believe in fairy tales.”
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I can’t think of the last time I was this excited watching a film, stressed out sitting in my seat, anxious to see what would happen next. Watching August Rush, I actually pointed at the screen a few times, excited at what I saw coming up. Combined with the fact that it was a film that reaffirmed everything I believe about fate and everything happening for a reason, it was quite possibly my favorite film of the year, or at least since the last time I saw Keri Russell in a film, Waitress.
Russell stars as Lyla, a young cellist in New York City, playing for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. One night, escaping from an overwhelming party, and wandering up to the roof, she has a chance meeting with another musician, Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), the front man in an Irish rock band. They listen to a street musician playing Moondance on a harmonica, and Louis mentions that he sometimes talks to the moon.
Lyla and Louis are so drawn to each other, and after spending the night together on the rooftop, they agree to meet later that day, but just as he tracks her down, Lyla’s overbearing father pushes her to continue their plans, and they check out of their hotel. Never able to find each other again, despite both of their repeated attempts waiting at “their” spot, Louis gives up on music altogether out of despair, quitting the band and moving to San Francisco. Lyla is never able to share with him the news that she is now carrying their child, and also gives up music, moving to Chicago.
Evan (Freddie Highmore), 11 years old, has grown up in an orphanage, and has refused any attempts by the state to have him placed with a family, believing that his family is out there waiting for him. He hears music in his head and feels as if his parents are using the music as a way to find him. Somewhere deep inside him, he feels that his parents always wanted him, but they became lost.
Following the music to find his parents, Evan runs away from the orphanage and winds up out on the street. Befriending a boy that he sees playing the guitar on a street corner, he’s taken in by Whizzer (Robin Williams), a man who takes in runaways, trains them to play music, then sets them out on the street to make money which he takes half of, a music pimp of sorts. Evan takes to the guitar very quickly, and is soon being pimped not just on corners, but in bigger money gigs as well. Whizzer changes the boy’s name to August Rush, and we begin to see a whole new side of Williams, one filled with anger that had me pinned to the back of my seat.
The anger wasn’t the only emotion pulled out, as the whole film was filled with emotional twists and turns that had me audibly pleading in the theatre for one person to run into the other or to figure out the answer to the mystery. I would whisper to my son sitting next to me when I had it figured out what was coming up next, but it didn’t less the enjoyment at all. Even though I was sure it was a movie with a happy ending, I still sat the entire time on pins and needles.
Any movie with Williams’ dramatic talents is usually superb, and this was no exception. He wasn’t happy and joyful as his comedic self, but was downright mean. Russell was much more innocent in this film than she was in Waitress, and in fact everyone was innocent … except Williams. Highmore is one of those young actors that is extremely gifted as he brings in his own quirky personality to the part, reminding me somewhat of Haley Joel Osment.
I wanted so much for this to be one of those films about fate, and to find that music was the vehicle of the fate. Yet, I also wanted to paint Williams into some type of spiritual guide role, and I just couldn’t get past his own emotional issues. Regardless, I left the theatre after seeing August Rush still firmly believing in fate, even if the reasons these things happened to this young family weren’t entirely clear.
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