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Hilary and Jackie (1998, Emily Wayson, Rachel Griffiths)



If Shine was a story of genius swathed in madness, Hilary and Jackie charts lyricism crippled by tragedy. Controversial and emotive, it follows the Du Pré sisters who, from childhood, were surrounded by music. Hilary (Rachel Griffiths) makes her concert debut first, destroying her sister Jackie’s (Emily Watson) self-confidence as their sibling rivalry grows. Soon after she is befriended by Kiffer (David Morrisey), who invites her to join his orchestra. The invitation is accepted, and leads to a whirlwind romance and marriage.

Jackie’s precocious talent as a cellist, however, sees her reputation grow faster and she finds a partner in concert pianist Daniel Barenboim (James Frain), converts to Judaism and also marries, although her happiness is remote. Now recognised as a world-class talent, Jackie looks for love closer to home, with Kiffer, testing her sister’s tolerance and deepening her own misery. A growing lethargy – diagnosed as multiple sclerosis – threatens to stop her career at its peak, and throws the Du Prés together for a final chance at reconciliation.

If biopics have a central fault it is that audiences know the ending. Hilary and Jackie never retreats from showing Jacqueline’s demise, but its central story of the sisters’ rivalry and cycles of capitulation and unhappiness is the core story. Compassionate and compelling, it made several value judgements (such as an intimation of Barenboim’s negligence of his wife’s health), which led to criticism from some quarters. Yet the end result is the compelling story of one of the world’s finest classical musicians.

production details
UK | 121 minutes | 1998

Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Book: Hilary du Pré, Piers du Pré
Director: Anand Tucker

Emily Watson as Jackie Du Pré
Rachel Griffiths as Hilary Du Pré
Bill Paterson as Cello Teacher
David Morrissey as Kiffer Finzi
James Frain as Daniel Barenboim
Charles Dance as Derek Du Pré
Celia Imrie as Iris Du Pré
Rupert Penry-Jones as Piers Du Pré
Auriol Evans as Young Jackie
Keylee Jade Flanders as Young Hilary