Four classical musicians, played by Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Mark Ivanir, have been playing together for about 25 years. Now, despite their great success, the quartet seems to be on the brink of dissolution.
Peter is facing a career-ending disease, Robert and Juliette's marriage is at a crisis, and Daniel thinks he's in a love with a much younger women, who happens to be Robert and Juliette's daughter. These personal issues are played out against the background of music, not just in the score but almost as another character.
A Late Quartet, directed by Yaron Zilberman, is a character study of four friends and partners who also harbor jealousies and their own ideas of how pieces should be played. The acting is wonderful, and the individual stories of the quartet members are interesting, even if not uplifting.
But honestly, I was more fascinated by what I learned about the life of a classical musician than I was in the fate of the quartet. I was unaware of the choices musicians make, the life cycle and lifestyle of a classical group, and the inner workings and emotions that hold such groups together (or tear them apart).
The score, principally Beethoven’s Quartet in C Sharp Minor, sets the structure for the film (the opus is described and explained in the script), and the musicians' emotional ups and downs nicely follow the moods of Beethoven's long piece. Unfortunately, the actors were less convincing when attempting to look as if they were really playing their instruments, but their stellar performances more than compensate.
The BluRay of the movie comes out February 5. Thanks to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment for the chance to view a streamer of the film.