Set in the rarefied world of chamber music, A Late Quartet is a film that exudes elegance and class. And it finds four superb actors at the top of their game, fully inhabiting their characters and pulling off the difficult feat of convincing us that they are world-renowned musicians. Sadly, as events unfold, the script delivers too many false notes for the film to be wholly satisfying.
The plot starts promisingly, though, with the members of a celebrated string quartet plunged into disharmony when its eldest member announces his impending retirement. Newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Christopher Walken’s cellist declares that the quartet’s 25th anniversary season will be his last, but his decision unleashes pent-up rivalries, resentments and jealousies among the other members of the group – Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener’s violin and viola playing husband and wife, and Mark Ivanir’s first violin.
As the quartet prepare for their final concert, a performance of Beethoven’s musically challenging Opus 131 String Quartet in C-sharp minor, director and co-writer Yaron Zilberman throws in one melodramatic contrivance after another, dragging Hoffman and Keener’s musician daughter (Imogen Poots) into the emotional turmoil to make things even stickier.
It’s a shame that Zilberman feels the need to raise the dramatic stakes so implausibly high, as the actors really are excellent – and the music is sublime.
In cinemas from Friday 5th April and on demand from Sky Store and Curzon Home Cinema.
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