August Rush

Director: Kirsten Sheridan

Kirsten Sheridan, daughter of director Jim Sheridan who collaborated with her sister and father on the Academy Award nominated screenplay for Jim’s In America crafted this gorgeous ode to childlike innocence, the power of the family blood and the magic of music sure to be a sleeper hit in the 2007 holiday season. With August Rush, Sheridan works from a script by Nick Castle and James V. Hart (based on a story by Castle and Paul Castro) that melds fairy tale elements with an homage to Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist about Evan Taylor (Freddie Highmore) an eleven year old orphan boy who escapes the New York boys’ home where he’s taunted by others to track down his biological parents. Along the way he meets Arthur (or our “Artful Dodger”) played by Leon G. Thomas III, a fellow runaway turned street musician who takes pity on the goodhearted Evan and gives him shelter with the unstable schemer Wizard (Robin Williams who IMDb reports modeled his character on Bono). Together Wizard and Arthur realize Evan’s natural gift for music after the young prodigy becomes an accomplished guitarist literally overnight and soon Evan takes to the streets using the name August Rush and becomes a sensation. Although he later realizes it's his calling, Freddie Highmore with his infectious smile and earnest persona first becomes enamored of the idea of music as a way to reach his parents who viewers quickly learn were musicians in their own right in a beautiful flashback set-up at the beginning of the film. Waitress star Keri Russell plays the elegant Julliard trained cellist Lyla Novacek whose career is managed by her well-meaning but domineering father whose drive to keep his daughter sheltered and successful take a dramatic turn after she finds herself pregnant from a one-night stand with Louis Connelly, a gorgeous Irish lad (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, of course and thankfully keeping his accent) who’s a guitarist in an up-and-coming rock band made up of his brothers. The young lovers’ brief night that begins with Connelly crooning Van Morrison’s "Moondance" on a beautiful night on a rooftop overlooking New York’s Washington Square Park is one of the very few scenes Russell and Meyers share together onscreen and in fact, the main trio of actors are seldom seen occupying the same frame which may have been a problem in other films but in the hands of Sheridan, much credit is owed to her skill and ability to fill the rest of the cast with moving supporting players such as Terrence Howard as a genuinely caring child services worker named Richard Jeffries who finds himself moved by both Highmore and Russell’s pleas to track one another down. Although admittedly very little of the film feels at all real, August Rush is a beautiful and refreshingly optimistic family film filled with innocent idealism with just enough Dickensian elements thrown in for good measure—an escapist work with a wonderful musical soundtrack which will hopefully earn some recognition during award season.