HILLARY AND JACKIE is the story of two musician sisters whose competitive urges drive them to great artistic heights and deep, personal lows. Based on the life of the du Pré sisters, this film is a tale of the tragedy of artistic genius and the limits of love and trust that may be exhibited by siblings.

From husband-swapping to physical palsy, the story is quite unrelentling in pulling emotional heartstrings. The film does not, however, cascade into an overly sentimental portrait of these two artists. The tragedy is often played out quietly, and the flavour of mysticism running through the narrative resists becoming distracting or unbelievable. The story remains a moving, heartfelt account of the remarkable lives of these two women.

Emily Watson gets most of the showcase work here, as her deterioration both mentally and physically is the heart of the films narrative. Sublime in BREAKING THE WAVES, her performance is as good as it is expected to be. I worry, however, that being typecast into roles that depict a certain hysterical flair might be deleterious to this gifted woman’s career.

The big surprise for me was the quiet grace exhibited by Rachel Griffiths. While I loved her in MURIEL’S WEDDING, I was surprised at how well she played a jealous foil to her more kinetic sister. Her performance may be overshadowed by Emily’s at first glance, but I think that Rachel holds this film together.

For a first time director, Tucker’s style is confident and strong. Only at times slipping into overt sentimentality, HILLARY AND JACKIE proves to be a good, if draining, film.