Review: A Late Quartet

A Late Quartet Director Yaron Zilberman brings intertwining stories, love affairs, and mix signals to the forefront of his latest film, A Late Quartet. Zilberman presents a story of what happens to a famous string quartet when they can no longer play together. The simple act of replacing members sparks off a cacophony of mistakes, rivalries, and betrayals that might destroy the quartet and even the very lives of its members. Who knew string quartets could be so intriguing behind the scenes?

Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken), the eldest of the quartet, and by far the most grounded is forced early on in the film to accept that his life is drastically changing when he is diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. For a man whose entire adult life has been focused on performing in front of thousands of fans he took the news well. Walken was able to bring a subtle touch to the role. His calmed faced matched with his intense gaze allowed the audience to connect to the panic and pain Peter was experiencing underneath. When Peter informs his fellow quartet members, Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Juliette (Catherine Keener), and Daniel (Mark Ivanir) of his pending condition the group begins to spiral. After playing exclusively together for more than 20 years, the mere idea of changing causes their worlds to crumble around them. From the onset Robert sees Peter’s departure as an opportunity to become the lead violinist in the group. Robert’s ambition of course collides with Daniel, who has always been the lead. As with most things, humans are petty and vengeful creatures. Daniel's retaliation against Robert is one that is fairly unforgivable. At the same time, Robert is desperately trying to manage his failing marriage to Juliette, and his daughter Alexandra (Imogen Poots).

The performances were all very enjoyable and nuanced as you would expect in a film of this nature. A truly breakout performance by Imogen Poots, who is a fast rising star. However, for my money I would once again have to give Philip Seymour Hoffman a standing applauses. His ability to go the full range of emotions is fantastic to watch. Scenes of pure anger or apology make him really stand out amongst an otherwise great cast. Mark Ivanir clashed with Hoffman's character most often and it was fantastic to watch. As a genius with a massive ego, Ivanir played it perfectly. From his over the top views of music appreciation to his cut throat and rigid ways, Ivanir was brilliant. As I said earlier, Christopher Walken played his limited role with nuance and while on screen he was captivating. Catherine Keener never seems to be acting to me. She always appears so genuine in the roles she plays that I have a hard time judging her acting. She was fluid and easy, and never made too many waves. Her character’s presence is felt through the reactions of the surrounding members.

All in all, A Late Quartet is an entertaining indie flick about a topic that seems uninteresting from the description, but really pulls you in. Tales of double cross, intrigue, and jockeying for position can make even the most mild of situations that much more interesting. Yaron Zilberman makes us truly care about what happens to our famed string quartet in the end.

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