Hilary and Jackie

Hilary and Jackie is the story of two sisters who were pushed by parents to become child prodigies—Hilary du Pré in playing the flute, Jacqueline du Pré as a ‘cellist. During an early life devoted to music, however, neither child reached maturity, and they lacked any identity apart from their musical personas, so they bonded to provide a refuge of happiness by caring for each other. Hilary strikes out on her own by marrying an admirer and giving up any ambition in the field of music. Suddenly, Jackie no longer has ready access to her sister’s support, and a menage à trois is not the answer. Jackie then finds love with conductor Daniel Barenboim and soon embarks on a musical tour of Europe; however, not mature enough to handle the isolation from her sister, she becomes disoriented. The stress brings out a case of multiple sclerosis, and her condition deteriorates badly until her sister returns to comfort her, albeit too late, as the world is robbed of a musical virtuoso. The film reminds us of the story in the film Shine (1996), wherein another child prodigy tries so hard to please his parents that he becomes disabled. Whereas Patch Adams sought to heal by removing stress from medical patients, and Shirl Jennings developed a stress-free accommodation to his disability, we learn that the pressures on child prodigies seem to have overwhelmed them, and thus Hilary and Jackie has a critical lesson about childrearing that goes far beyond the story. MH