David has returned to Perth a broken man, after his collapse on stage at the Royal College of Music. He has been in and out of mental institutions and half-way houses until he meets Sylvia (Sonia Todd), restaurant owner at the restaurant where he now plays piano for the surprised customers. Sylvia introduces David to Gillian (Lynn Redgrave), an astrologer. Her first sighting of him is memorable.
The first half of Jan Sardi’s script introduces us to the horrors of David’s upbringing and suggests causes for his mental disintegration; the last third turns this around, as David finds love and a kind of balance in his life, and a return to the joys of performance. Geoffrey Rush’s charm and humour in the role of the older David is a large part of why the film was so widely acclaimed. He shows us how David’s mania allowed him to survive all the trauma of his upbringing, and the insistent demands of his talent. David’s word association games when he meets Gillian are a good example of the way that Rush treads very skilfully along the line between unintelligible and highly intelligent. He goes from astrology, to the stars, to ‘music of the spheres’ (an ancient theory that regarded the planet movements as a form of music) to Shakespeare’s ‘If music be the food of love’ which is, of course, what’s on his mind when he meets the beautiful Gillian. Geoffrey Rush won many awards, including the Oscar for best actor for this performance.