A Late Quartet is classy. That’s pretty much all you need to know. It’s a well constructed film, with great acting, dealing with grown-up themes in a grown-up way. It’s the type of film that’s rarely seen these days, due to the way that films are currently financed and distributed. It’s a shame that mid-range dramas like this are finding a tough time surviving, jammed between micro-budgeted horrors and superhero franchises.
A Late Quartet is centred around the Fugue Quartet, a renowned group of musicians (Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir ) who are celebrating 25 years together. Their musical bliss is thrown into disarray when they have to come to terms with the news that a member of the group is suffering from the early onset of Parkinson’s disease.
Nothing about A Late Quartet isn’t flashy. It’s a sturdy film with finely crafted performances and a good story, however that’s not to say that it doesn’t look good. Set in New York during a crisp, snowy winter The Late Quartet shows a side of the city that hasn’t been seen in a long time. It’s the New York that we all know from the movies, with brownstone houses and long meandering neighbourhoods. It’s good to see it on screen once more.
You’d expect the performances to be what makes A Late Quartet work and it is. Walken hasn’t been this low-key in years. His work here is small, precise, lyrical. Hoffman has the most to work with, playing to type as the demoralized violinist aching to break out of the confines of the group and his marriage. Meanwhile Keener and Ivanir run subtle emotional interference, affecting the plot in subtle ways.
A film like A Late Quartet can slip through the cracks. It’s not bombastic enough to make a noise in the mainstream arena and it’s not sufficiently edgy to score kudos on the cult circuit. However, it’s understated and finely tuned drama that deserves to be seen.