Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


In their close childhood, Hilary (Rachel Griffiths), a flautist, was considered the greater talent than her younger sister Jackie (Emily Watson). Through practice and hard work, however, Jackie elevated herself to her sister's level, and beyond. As an adult, Hilary all but gave up the flute in favour of marriage and a family, while Jacqueline chose fame and the concert stage. The price was a desperate yearning to have the stability and happiness that Hilary had. Fate had other plans.

"The poignancy of Hilary and Jackie is underscored from the very first strains of the cello's mellow tones and soulful song. Disturbing and moving, this glimpse of a tragic, talented life is extraordinary by its frankness and made wonderful by the performances. We've seen the range of Emily Watson's talents in Breaking the Waves, and here, she is mesmerising. It's a complex role, and one that Watson embraces wholeheartedly. She is impressively matched by Rachel Griffiths, who delivers a subtle performance that is as internal as Watson's is external. We can feel Griffiths' every thought, her every pain. This is certainly a vehicle to propel her talents into the stratosphere. Effectively structured with two parts, each offering a singular, subjective point of view, Frank Cottrell Boyce's excellent screenplay canvasses the issues of sibling rivalry and unequivocal love. Based on the book by Hilary du Pre, this blatantly honest view of her talented sister is heartfelt and telling. It is quite obvious that these 'peas in a pod' whose telepathic abilities illustrated their closeness, both suffered enormously. Powerful and dramatic, this story of obsession and passion is coloured by a soaring soundtrack that is both jolting and emotive. Strains from Elgar, Bach, Hayden, Handel and Dvorjak are strident, fervent, yet gentle and often simply beautiful. Hilary and Jackie is not always comfortable to watch – but throughout, there is a strong integrity of passionate film making, approached confidently and with authority. Throughout the troubled life of this celebrated artist, the applause is never enough; we are fortunate in that we can continue to enjoy du Pre's extraordinary talents through recordings and records such as this memorable film."
Louise Keller

"The old adage that truth is stranger than fiction gets another outing in this emotionally charged film, at least as eloquent cinematically as another successful biopic about a unique musician, Shine. The film feels real, although afterwards I had the feeling that everyone (with any clout in the process) was always consciously trying to make a balanced portrait of the deceased Jackie. Not that this is a bad thing; nor is it a bad thing that the story is framed in a slightly spiritual or metaphysical setting, although it is a distraction. The production values are, however, brilliant, and the performances superb. It moves and is also moving, and takes us into the physically as well as emotionally different places of Jackie’s life with great success."
Andrew L. Urban

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0


CAST: Emily Watson, Rachel Griffiths, James Frain, David Morrissey, Charles Dance, Celia Imrie, Rupert Penry-Jones, Bill Paterson, Auriol Evans, Keeley Flanders, Grace Chatto, Nyree Dawn Porter

PRODUCERS: Andy Paterson and Nicolas Kent

DIRECTOR: Anand Tucker

SCRIPT: Frank Cottrell Boyce


EDITOR: Martin Walsh

MUSIC: Barrington Pheloung


RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes



VIDEO RELEASE: October 6, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020