We all need a little sentimentality in our lives; it can’t all be doom, gloom, and cynicism. Particularly for gore hounds and fans of extreme and outre cinema like me, it’s good to have that select few films that you know you can return to when you need to laugh, smile, or try to restore your faith in humanity. It’s also nice, but rare to discover new ones. With an introduction like that, you’d expect me to say that August Rush is one such favourite or new find. While it is sentimental, and while I did (on the whole) like it, it isn’t going to change anyone’s world and it is neither shmaltzy enough or convincing enough in its plot and characters to give me cosy, snuggly feels.
The plot is this; an idealistic pair of young dreamers, both musicians have a fleeting meeting one night in New York, star-crossed lovers who share a brief, perfect night together. The next day they are swept apart and kept apart. Movie magic decrees that a single bout of unprotected sex ALWAYS leads to pregnancy, and a few months later a bambino pops out. There is treachery afoot and the boy is put into foster care. Over the years the boy seems to become a musical prodigy/Nostradamus and knows that his parents are looking for him. So begins an American Tail type journey as the boy flees to New York in search of his parents, meeting all manner of characters along the way and showing off his incredible musical ability. These scenes are interspersed with scenes of mummy and daddy both in search for each other and their baby.
I think the plot is interesting and it certainly has all the qualities for a heartwarming couple of hours. I think the writing though is a little lazy and the directing haphazard. Scenes leap around without warning or skill and after all the build up, the ending doesn’t feel like a strong enough pay off. The melodrama is too bland, the more powerful emotive moments are left unexplored or hanging, and there is too much focus on musical scenes and discussions between secondary characters. The performances are uniformly strong – it’s clear everyone had their hearts in the right places, but Freddie Highmore has an extremely irritating way of gawping and open-mouthing that had me reaching for the imaginary shotgun on several occasions. There are moments when the music is powerful, but it lacks a truly impacting score as I couldn’t recall any of the music a few hours after watching; music in movies is something I’m very susceptible too and I can remember pieces for many years after only watching a particular film or TV episode a single time.
With a little shaving around the edges, a little more focus on the struggles of the characters, stronger direction, and less smiling from Highmore and this would be a much better movie. As it stands I would still recommend it, particularly for those who fall for sentimental movies, or old fashioned weepies with a slight fantastical twist. It feels a little like a disappointing missed opportunity as it has all the right parts for making a cult favourite. For people like me who need another Edward Scissorhands to cure the blues then it’s worth a watch, but it may only cure boredom momentarily and leave us searching once more.
What do you think of August Rush? Did it work for you, or was it too messy, contrived, or sentimental? Let us know in the comments!