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Pianist David Helfgott, driven by his father and teachers, has a breakdown. Years later he returns to the piano, to popular if not critical acclaim.



(screenplay), (story)
4,876 ( 598)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 44 wins & 48 nominations. See more awards »



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HELLO I AM DAVID! is a journey into the world of the outstanding pianist David Helfgott whose life inspired the OSCAR-winning film 'Shine'

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Justin Braine ...
Alex Rafalowicz ...
Gordon Poole ...
Eisteddfod Presenter
Ben Rosen
Danielle Cox ...
Suzie - Child
Rebecca Gooden ...
Marta Kaczmarek ...
John Cousins ...
Jim Minogue
Paul Linkson ...
State Champion Announcer


As a child piano prodigy, David Helfgott's musical ambitions generate friction with his overbearing father, Peter. When Helfgott travels to London on a musical scholarship, his career as a pianist blossoms. However, the pressures of his newfound fame, coupled with the echoes of his tumultuous childhood, conspire to bring Helfgott's latent schizophrenia boiling to the surface, and he spends years in and out of various mental institutions. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A father whose life was his family. A son whose music was his life. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for nudity/sensuality and intense thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

14 February 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Claroscuro  »

Box Office


$5,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$162,179 (USA) (22 November 1996)


$35,811,509 (USA) (30 May 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When David is talking with Katharine Prichard in her home, on the shelf behind her is a photograph of a World War I soldier. This is Lieutenant Hugo Throssell who won the Victoria Cross at Hill 60 in Gallipoii. The pair met in London where he was recuperating and later married. After a string of business failures Throssell committed suicide in 1933 and is buried in the military section of the Karrakatta cemetery in Perth, Western Australia. See more »


The mezzuzah, a Jewish religious scroll attached to a home's door posts, on Ben Rosen's home is angled the wrong way; it should be angled toward the entrance of the home. See more »


Peter: No-one will love you like me, no-one like me.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Himself: hand double for Geoffrey Rush See more »


Fast Zu Ernst - Scences From Childhood, Opus 15
Composed by Robert Schumann
Performed by Wilhelm Kempff
© 1973 Polydor International GmbH Hamburg
See more »

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User Reviews

Powerful film
3 April 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Shine" purports to tell the story of David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush, who plays the adult Helfgott), a promising pianist who overcame mental illness, with the help of his wife, and returned to performing.

The 1996 film is actually a fictionalized version of Helfgott's life - but even had it not been based on a true story, it remains a powerful, intriguing film.

David is the child of German émigrés who now live in Australia. His father Peter (Armin Mueller-Stahl) is a self-taught pianist who teaches David his same love of piano and classical music. There is love there, but as portrayed in the movie, Peter is a rigid man who gives his son mixed signals. He drives his son to succeed as a pianist, teaching him that winning is everything, and yet, when David has opportunities that would take him away from the family, Peter won't permit it. The reason for this is that Peter and his wife lost relatives in the Holocaust. Peter is also given to physical abuse toward David when he loses his temper.

David finally gets away from him and attends the Royal Conservatory in London, where, with the help of his teacher (John Gielgud), he wins an important competition but then suffers a severe nervous breakdown. The rest of the movie deals with the road back, which leads him home to Australia and to his wife, Gillian. Gillian is actually his second wife, though the first marriage isn't mentioned in the film.

The dominant performances belong to Rush and Mueller-Stahl. Rush does a brilliant job of showing us the likable but stuttering David who speaks rapidly and repetitively, expressing himself through music. Mueller-Stahl as the tortured Peter is fabulous, a man who is both monstrous and pitiable. In a small role, John Gielgud of course makes a fine impression as an elderly teacher, a wonderful pianist himself, who believes in David's talent.

The best scene is David playing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #3 - Helfgott's own recording of the piece is used - and the aftermath. What I missed in this film is music - there was a lot of talk about David's promise, but until the Rachmaninoff not much playing.

Helfgott's work today has been deeply criticized for being - well, lousy. A review in The New York Times of one of his concerts is horrible. The reviewer, however, mentions that Helfgott occasionally showed vestiges of excellent technique. I think it's safe to assume that his playing nowadays is more erratic than it was in his earlier years. There are several examples of Helfgott's playing in the movie: "La Campanella," "Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 In C Sharp Minor," "Flight of the Bumble Bee," Rachmaninoff's "Prelude In C Sharp Minor, Opus 3, No. 2," the previously mentioned Rachmaninoff 3, and Liszt's "Sospiro," and it is all quite stunning. Rush does the fingerings himself. One of the comments also claims that Helfgott's wife has Helfgott perform on no medication so that he'll seem crazy - it's common for performers on medication for mental problems to have to cycle off of it before performing. I don't think the commenter has any idea what Helfgot is like on his medication - certainly in the film, he acts strangely.

"Shine" is highly recommended for its fantastic performances, beautiful music, and its inspiring story.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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