Monday, 1 April 2013

A Late Quartet Review


Director: Yaron Zilberman

Writers: Yaron Zilberman, Seth Grossman

Starring: Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir, Imogen Poots, Wallace Shawn, Liraz Charhi

Synopsis: A well-established string quartet begins to suffer some setbacks after one member is diagnosed with Parkinson’s and the others get mixed up in love and affairs.

Given the names on the film’s cast list there’s little chance of A Late Quartet being badly-acted. Whilst they’re not the best characters each actor has played, there is a flawless quality to their performance. Christopher Walken, who in the last ten years has often exaggerated his persona in comedy, is the star of this film. He isn’t given as much screen-time as the rest – and not nearly as much drama – but his arc is quietly melancholic which has a much more profound effect on the film’s emotion. One scene where he reflects on his life and his losses during a sombre piece of music powerfully reminds you that he is a deserved Oscar-winner and acting icon.

The three remaining quartet members are similarly fantastic, given story-lines to eat up in all their critically-acclaimed glory. You are constantly reminded of the need for cohesion in this type of group and so watching as they break apart is expectedly dramatic. Whilst Walken’s character poignantly ponders over his aging and disease, the other three wrestle with love and control in the ranks of their quartet. It is, as you imagine, a variety of tearful arguments, physical clashes and loud yelling. They all know how to deliver these moments with the exact amount of intensity and prowess, making A Late Quartet seem like a classic melodrama.

They all handle their characters wonderfully, making them seem as real as the actors’ practice with their chosen instruments. Only on occasionally do you see the film slipping into clich├ęd territory, and at these points you feel slightly cheated (as if Hollywood producers felt compelled to bring some familiarity to the floor). The film is a long, dialogue-heavy meditation on support and collapse but it feels mature in its ability to do that without too many truisms of the genre.

A deft exploration of relationships and life, coupled with the interesting focus on a tight quartet group, makes A Late Quartet very touching. Its focal point of the quartet and Beethoven’s elaborate Opus 131 will not make it a box-office behemoth, though for its chosen demographic it will certainly affect and entertain.

****
By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms

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