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A Late Quartet - Review

A Late Quartet

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IT’S tempting to write that if you only see one movie about a quartet this year then either ‘stick with Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut’ or ‘go and see this one’. But the truth is both are flawed but entertaining in their own kind of ways.

A Late Quartet follows the fortunes of one of the world’s most renowned classical quartets when one of their number, Peter (Christopher Walken) is diagnosed with Parkinson’s and decides to quit after the first concert of the approaching new season.

As he attempts to come to terms with his diagnosis, his colleagues ponder a new start. For Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffman) this involves making a play for the limelight. But this in turn exposes tensions in his relationship with his wife, Juliette (Catherine Keener) and the quartet’s arrogant focal point Daniel (Mark Ivanir).

Directed by Yaron Zilberman, A Late Quartet is a frequently absorbing character piece that offers great roles for all four of its central players.

It’s just a shame therefore that Zilberman also seems to want to have his cake and eat it by adding extra layers of melodrama that really aren’t needed.

A sub-plot involving Robert and Juliette’s daughter (well played by Imogen Poots) feels like one contrivance (or affair) too many and comes at the expense of some of the more interesting and believable elements at play.

Walken’s character sometimes feels especially short-changed when the film may have benefitted even more by focusing more on his story. As things stand, it’s a classy performance from the actor, who still manages to convey his journey with dignity and grace.

That criticism aside, Zilberman’s screenplay (which he co-wrote with Seth Grossman) still offers a fascinating insight into the dedication and sacrifice required to become a success, as well as the emotional consequences and even the egotism. Few of the characters cover themselves in glory and feel richer for it without compromising our empathy for them.

Hence, when the film reaches its poignant conclusion, you may well be surprised at just how touched you’ll be. In this regard, and in spite of its shortcomings, A Late Quartet succeeds as an engrossing character drama buoyed by the calibre of its cast.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 105mins
UK Release Date: April 5, 2013