Reviewed by C.J. Darlington
"...a heart-warming film with a rich narrative, visually diverse settings, and a lush original music score."
11-year-old Evan wants nothing more in life than to find his parents, or for them to find him. Labeled a freak by his fellow boys home residents it isn’t long before he finds himself on the streets of New York in search of the mother and father he never knew. Like a fish out of water, the sights and sounds of the city that never sleeps are at once overwhelming and intoxicating. In every thumping foot, squealing tire, barking dog and rattling chain he hears a rhythm. Music. Harmonics no one hears but him. He knows if he just follows the music somehow his parents will find him. What he doesn’t know is that his parents have no idea he exists.
Ten years ago his mother, Lyla (Keri Russell), a gifted celoist, was a young prodigy herself when she met Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), the talented lead singer and guitarist for an Irish rock band. Immediately they share a bond, and their night together changes everything. Can the power of music bring this family of strangers back together again?
Don’t let the somewhat un-inspiring title August Rush fool you. This movie is a heart-warming film with a rich narrative, visually diverse settings, and a lush original music score. Freddie Highmore’s spot-on performance as Evan, who soon takes up the moniker August Rush, immediately invokes our sympathy. We truly care what happens to this bright-eyed, innocent boy who hasn’t let himself become jaded by his harsh environment. (If he looks familiar it’s probably because of his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Finding Neverland fame. He played the lead child roles in both.)
But it’s not just Highmore who carries this movie. Every actor nails their role beautifully. Keri Russell (perhaps known best for the TV show Felicity) is a natural on the screen, skillfully bringing to life the character of Lyla both as a naive young woman and a passionate mother. Robin Williams’ supporting role as a music pimp to a brood of unwanted yet musically gifted children cinches that he can play the deeper roles right alongside his lighter comedy ones. You’ll also want to take notice of Terrence Howard’s performance as social worker Richard Jeffries, a man in the system who genuinely cares for the kids under his care but often finds his hands frustratingly tied
A few times suspension of disbelief is called for as August Rush is more about the fantastic than the realistic. It’s a little hard to believe Evan is able to play both the guitar and organ like a master (not to mention conduct an orchestra) without ever having seen or touched the instruments before in his life. But you really don’t mind. This movie has enough heart to carry it above and beyond those moments. Its portrayal of music’s magic, that powerful tug on the human heart and soul, sets it apart from your average film tackling the same subjects.
Parents will appreciate the filmmaker’s tact in portraying Lyla and Louis’ one-night stand. No more than the beginnings of a passionate kiss are shown. A few swear words (h— and d—) probably aren’t appropriate for youngsters since several are uttered by children, but they really did have their place in showing you the hard existence of some of the street kids.
August Rush reminds us that amidst the hardships there truly is some good left in this world. You’ll come away from this movie with a greater appreciation of music’s power, not to mention the power of love and family. Definitely worth seeing more than once.
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C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.