Hilary (Keeley Flanders) and Jackie (Auriol Evans) du Pre grow up as two little English girls isolated from the rest of the world and driven by their musician mother (Celia Imrie) to achieve the heights of excellence. As a flutist, Hilary is recognized as being superior to her younger sister. Later, the tables are turned as Jackie becomes a flamboyant and extremely gifted cellist. Throughout their childhood, they remain best friends and artistic rivals.
After Hilary (Rachel Griffiths) fails her flute exam at the Royal Academy of Music, she marries Kiffer (David Morrissey), an enthusiastic conductor who takes her to the countryside to start a family. Meanwhile, Jackie (Emily Watson) goes on the road as a virtuoso cellist, winning worldwide acclaim. Eventually, she marries Daniel Barenboim (James Frain), a Jewish Argentinian pianist and conductor.
About a third of the way through this complex and emotionally riveting film, director Anand Tucker uses the bold technique of unfolding the drama of sibling rivalry first from Hilary's perspective and then from Jackie's. It enables us to plunge into the core of the love/hate relationship between the du Pre sisters and to sense the shadow side of creativity. As a prelude to her terrifying descent into a terminal case of multiple sclerosis, Jackie pushes Hilary into a strange favor meant to test her love.
This musical biography contains some stirring recordings, including Jacqueline du Pre's famous interpretation of Elgar's "Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in E Minor." The story, supported by the surviving du Pres, also shows the high price that must be paid by families with a genius in their midst.