A Late Quartet Review: Plucks on the Heart Strings As Well As Steel
rating: 4Extra-marital affairs, jealousy, betrayal, resentment all set in the world of classical music. A Late Quartet has relationships and emotional punch ups as tumultuous as the Beethoven the four-piece quartet perform. The frenetic pace of Beethoven is certainly represented in the film but so too is the heart-rendering beauty and tenderness. The plot is limited but packed with character and emotion. The Fugue is a four piece string quartet comprised of cellist Peter (Christopher Walken), violist Juliette and first and second violinist Daniel (Mark Ivanir) and Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffmen). The group are approaching their 25th anniversary but are faced with difficult and potentially devastating decisions when Peter announces he must leave the group after being diagnosed with Parkinsons disease. The rest of the group must decide whether to continue or go their separate ways while dealing with pent up feelings of resentment, longing and jealousy. The married couple of the group Robert and Juliette also face a crisis in their marriage as well as dealing with a rebellious daughter (Imogen Poots) who has embarked upon an affair with Daniel. The screenplay is packed with dramatic conflict and leads to wonderful performances from all the actors. This is the type of movie you would expect to be a forgotten gem from the 70s as its simple and understated plot. Christopher Walken gives the performance that he is capable of but seems to shy away from as of late. There is no self mockery or flippancy with his portrayal of a career musician faced with the prospect of hanging up the string bow for good. Walkens latest performances (like in Seven Psychopaths) are centred around the almost mythical cult following The Deer Hunter actor has amassed over the years. His performance as Peter has no traces of quirk or irreverent self-awareness but is the stuff Oscar nominations are made of. His quiet yet shattered acceptance of his disease and the plight of retiring is all expressed through limited dialogue and quiet expression and is utterly poignant. Philip Seymour Hoffman also gives a riveting performance. Robert is a character at an impasse in his career and in life. He sees the dissolution of the quartet as a chance to break free from the background and realise his potential. His scenes with Keener are electric and have such a brutal honesty that show this is really forty. One in scene in the back of a taxi cab shows Hoffmans incredible internal processing of a devastating revelation from his wife. The couple must face the resentments and harboured emotions while dealing with their rebellious young daughter who also has sequestered feelings towards her parents. A Late Quartet is a masterful blend of great performances and quiet intensity. The issues amongst the characters feel very real despite being set in the very socially exclusive world of classical musicians. First time director Yaron Zilberman (who also co-wrote the script) carefully balances melodrama with honest and touching familial dysfunction. The relationship between Juliettes and Roberts daughter Alexandra and Daniel does feel more akin to soap opera plot but is saved from ridicule by the thoughtful and charming performances of Ivanir and Imogen Poots. Ivanirs Daniel, despite being 20 years older than Alex, is imbued with a professional and artistic intensity that aspiring violinist Alexandra is helplessly allured to. Poots also shines in scenes with Keener where issues of abandonment lead to bitter arguments. The film has such wonderful and compelling performances there is a risk that the talent of Zilberman will be over looked. A Late Quartet is such a triumph because of the characters drawn by the screenplay and the thoughtful execution of the performances. Zilberman allows his superb cast to give superb portrayals and gives us one of the most touching and endearing films of the year. A Late Quartet is released in UK cinemas from this Friday.