I must confess, Freddie Highmore is starting to scare me a bit (in a good way, though).

The London native is 15 years old now but still has a child’s looks and voice. When he first came to my attention opposite Johnny Depp in both Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I put him down as a cute kid who was astutely cast for his gentle demeanor and wouldn’t generate much screen presence on his own, an impression reinforced by his forgettable work in A Good Year and Arthur and the Invisibles.

His performance in August Rush has totally overturned my first impression. In this movie, he plays a musical savant growing up in a New York state orphanage, and not only does his American accent sound dead convincing, but he also looks natural and lit up from within while playing the guitar, the organ, and conducting an orchestra (even though he isn’t really playing the instruments). Clearly this kid is a real actor in the making. What a shame he’s in such a silly movie. He plays Evan Taylor, the result of a one-night stand between an Irish rock singer (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) and a classical cellist (Keri Russell) whose domineering dad (William Sadler) signs baby Evan over to the state without her knowledge. Eleven years later, Evan’s belief that he’s still being sought by his parents leads him to escape from his home and find refuge in New York City.

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