Two brilliant musicians make love on a rooftop overlooking the city. They are deeply,Â insanely in love. We know this because they both enjoy listening to music on rooftops. They say little to each other, but are joined at the soul by a deep understanding of the heart’s essential song; the rhythm of God thatÂ runs through our veins and binds us to the universe in a perfect symphony of grace. She is Lyla (Keri Russell), a dopey, utterlyÂ clueless twit from the shallow end of American life, despite being aggressively courted by the New York Philharmonic, and having the sort of tyrannical father who shouts at her repeatedly and pushes her into a cab to keep her from laying eyes on her true love one last time. He is Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an idealistic Irish lad who sings his little heart out with his brothers, but is so full of the power of music that he threatens to burst open, revealing a heart literally pumping with the song of humanity.
Their meeting that night, while all-too-typical in the big city, was more than mere quivering loins and mistaking orgasms for the bonds of devotion that see you through years of impotence, disease, and waning interest; it was destiny. For only these two beings – these lonely souls on a New York evening – could have come together and produced a genius; a brilliant, savant-like child of such musical gifts that Mozart himself would stand aside and tip his wig in deference. The universe, heretofore indifferent to having any say in assorted Holocausts, wars, and unending torture, has now spoken to the world: and so shall be born a child, a little child, a savior for us all, a musical prodigy so wise and wonderful and inspiring that a new day will dawn. But first, he must reunite his parents, so cruelly separated by fate, luck, the gods, and a bastard father who dared think a child would interrupt a brilliant career in the arts.
Who is this Christ child? This perfect innocent who will unite the world with a symphonic composition so grand it will reduce John Williams to ash? He is Evan (Freddie Highmore): though call him August Rush, the name given to him by Fagin stand-in Maxwell “Wizard” Wallace (Robin Williams), a greedy, exploitive maniac who, despite his enslavement of every homeless kid in the Big Apple, still understands that music is “a harmonic connection between all living things.” He’s a con man, but he gets this Evan kid; he hears the same tones, the same voices, and the same mad rush to put music ahead of food, air, or water. He’s so in tune that when Evan is plucked from the streets to attend Juilliard, he objects because such a place will, like, instill rules, man, and kill the gift that came from God.
How did he end up at such a prestigious institution, you may find yourself asking? Well, because, after running away from Wallace during a police raid, he wanders into a church, where he meets a brilliant young girl who sings like Jesus, and is positioned just so to discover his brilliance at the holy organ one lonely night. Oh, and he turns out pages of material in his room, writing notes and whole compositions on the walls like a mental patient using excrement to tellÂ the story of Moses. The priest on duty grabs him and plants him down at Juilliard. “Take him!”, he cries. And take him they do! Within days, he is being asked to conduct his own piece in Central Park. “We never ask this of first-year students,” the ancient headmaster intones, “but in your case, we would be honored.” Is this the opportunity he’s been waiting for? Will this concert in the park call to his mother and father and make them a family once again? Is this America, little buddy? Sit tight, and have faith.
And so we have false endings, near misses, and last-minute escapes, but yes, Evan August Jesus Rush does make it to the park that night, and sporting a cute-as-a-button tuxedo no less, he leaves nary a dry eye as he flails his arms about in spasms we are certain reflect the genius of the moment. Listen to those sounds! The originality! The depth! The crowd is enthralled, and all of New York sways to his effortless command. But wait! Mom was on stage that very night, and despite wandering away, she is called back, because she knows this must be the child she had stripped from her so many years ago. And the father! Despite being in a taxi heading the opposite direction, he hears the concert calling him home, and so departs with all the alacrity of a man on fire. But does he know that his long-lost love, and the mother of his child, is in the same park? And that, despite a crowd of at least 10,000 tightly packed New Yorkers, he will end up so very close, and able to spot her at just the right moment? And so he does. And he walks up, grabs her hand, and they both smile as if the previous twelve-year absence had never occurred. Love conquers distance, time, and space. And it took the music of a boy – their boy – to make it all happen. God is merciful and just to be sure.
So ignore the contrivances, the coincidences, and the plot holes so big they just might hold Robin Williams’ capacity to overact. Forget that a one night stand is sold as love, or that a socially awkward Raymond Babbitt type – a boy who strolls around in traffic hearing the call of the owl – is the one true genius for our time. Ignore the pap, the forced sentiment, the iron-fisted emotional rape, or even the New Age gibberish about sharing minds and souls with our fellow chimps. Or that all gifts are transferred at birth, and that schools are a waste of time, as no one can ever learn how to play a note if one’s parents weren’t geniuses who fucked under a full moon. Just remember that Young Highmore, the lunatic in question, previously appeared in Finding Neverland as a boy who first doubts, then, through the time-tested tradition of English buggery and emotional manipulation unseen in generations, comes to accept that fantasy is preferable to truth, and that death has no sting if you pretend you can play with your expired mum in a forest full of bees and birds and dancing bears. Or here, where no boy is complete until both parents are safe in his arms, and God is in his heaven, ensuring that all the good ones experience exactly that.