A Delicate Balance of Harmony (Film Review: “A Late Quartet”)

A Late Quartet is a lovingly crafted and beautifully acted drama which peels back the stuffy veneer of the classical music scene to reveal the beating hearts beneath.  The drama centers on the members of The Fugue, a world famous quartet who, as their 25th anniversary approaches, is shaken to its core by the terminal diagnosis of it’s aging cellist, here in an elegiac performance by Christopher Walken. Director Yaron Zilberman pulls delicate, nuanced performances from Mark Ivanir, Catherine Keener, and the always riveting Philip Seymour Hoffman as the other three members of the quartet. British actress, Imogen Poots is also very watchable playing the luminous, precocious and talented daughter of Keener and Hoffman, herself an aspiring classical violinist.


SnapShot Plot

When the great Peter Mitchell receives a tragic diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, he quickly realizes his performing days are numbered, and that he must do everything possible to salvage the integrity of his world renowned classical quartet, The Fugue. But when he breaks the news to the other three members, the once sturdy fabric that bound the foursome to each other begins to unravel at the seams. Over the course of this quietly suspenseful film, we see the history behind the relationships revealed and begin to understand just what’s at stake when the central organism – the quartet itself – is jeopardized. It’s a pleasure to see Christopher Walken in such a subdued yet emotional role, and as the Julliard professor giving a lecture on the awesome challenge of performing Beethoven’s Opus 131, his words becomes a metaphor for the drama building within the quartet.

Parting Shot

Once you suspend your disbelief enough to accept the always tricky challenge of film actors portraying classical musicians – especially ones at this expert level – you can sit back and lose yourself in the momentum of the film. Not surprisingly, A Late Quartet has a magnificent soundtrack featuring Beethoven, Bach and Haydn chamber music, performed here by the Brentano String Quartet. The lush, emotional score is composed by the wonderful Angelo Badalamenti (remember, Twin Peaks fans?)  It’s also good to see Keener and Hoffman paired again after co-starring in Capote, this time as a husband and wife whose own marriage, much like the professional marriage of the quartet itself, is tested to its limits. And finally, there’s New York City itself that infuses the film with a heady charm, from the classrooms of Julliard and the wintry landscape of Central Park to the concert stage at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  All in all, a very satisfying and enveloping experience.

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Featured Image Courtesy of www.dailycal.org

Movie Trailer Courtesy of:  LateQuartet

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