‘A Late Quartet’: Superb drama, strings attached

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A Late Quartet (2012)

Directed by Yaron Zilberman

7/10  R

Weeks before movies like “Skyfall” and “Breaking Dawn: Part II” released to hoards of fans, a simple, low-budget relationship drama hit theaters. “A Late Quartet” didn’t involve vampire sex or shooting men from a moving train. Instead, it made due with just the relationships of real, emotional characters and the classical music of a string quartet.

The Fugue String Quartet is one of the most renowned classical groups of their kind. After 25 years, they seem to be at their peak. When their cellist (played by Christopher Walken) begins to notice signs of Parkinson’s, their first-chair violinist (Mark Ivanir) begins to show off his huge ego, and their married violist and second-chair violinist a-late-quartet-600x398(Catherine Keener and Philip Seymour Hoffman) begin having relationship troubles, the quartet’s future is in jeopardy. Under seemingly insurmountable odds, the quartet is forced to face their troubling future in search of hope.

There is nothing too special about “A Late Quartet.” Instead, the film relies solely on the dynamic of its incredible ensemble. Keener and Hoffman give solid performances, but it is Christopher Walken who’s truly at the top of his game. He’s superb. By the end, the tension between this close-knit group a musicians (after 25 years, they’re family) is as tight as the horse hair in their bows. That’s thanks to the concise script, nothing spectacular but a strong asset regardless.

You wouldn’t think that a soundtrack comprised almost exclusively of string music could convey such emotional range as it does in “A Late Quartet.” And if you did, you’d be right. It gives you goosebumps, fills you with rage, and makes you smile. At times, it’s so seamless you forget that it’s even there.

“A Late Quartet” is nothing without its stellar ensemble. And, thankfully for us, it’s got it. Sure, it may be niche. It may be artistic. But it’s definitely cinema.

“A Late Quartet” is on Blu-ray, DVD, and Netflix.

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