Inseparable sisters Hilary (Griffiths) and Jacqueline Du Pre (Watson) become virtual strangers after Jackie becomes an international celebrity at the age of 17. When Jackie returns home from years of touring with her spouse, her one request is that Hilary allows her to sleep with her husband, Kiffer (Morrissey).
Although he occasionally falls prey to the banal round of press-clipping montages and circular camera sweeps, the debuting Anand Tucker directs steadily. But Frank Cottell Boyce's script is more problematic. While adapting A Genius In The Family, the memoir written by Hilary and her brother Piers, was not easy, he doesn't always select the choicest character details and annoyingly tinkers with many more. There's also a confusing lack of timescale, which is not helped by his decision to halt the story halfway through to retell various incidents from Jackie's viewpoint. Linear storytelling may not be fashionable in arthouse cinema, but sometimes it is justifiable.
Yet for all this, Hilary And Jackie is both moving and memorable. Each member of the cast distinguishes themselves, with Morrissey ebulliently amiable as Kiffer and Celia Imrie efficiently austere as a kind of Enid Blyton stage mother. Griffiths expertly juggles Hilary's agonised mix of pride, envy, generosity and protectiveness, while Watson is mesmerising as the irrepressible spirit who is suddenly struck down by self-doubt and then by the multiple sclerosis that eventually killed her. Whether as the vivacious soloist or the lonely prisoner of her talent, Watson is simply sublime.
It's the passion and commitment that makes artists such a tempting target for filmmakers, and artists with a fatal affliction are irresistible. But while the raw material may be compelling, it doesn't always add up to satisfactory cinema.