Not to be confused with Quartet (which takes place in the UK), A Late Quartet (filmed in New York City) is about a string quartet (two violins, a viola and a cello). This quartet has been playing together for 25 years when the oldest of the musicians (Peter) is diagnosed with Parkinson’s. With Peter’s imminent departure from the quartet, the close-knit group (which includes a married couple - Robert and Juliette) begins to unravel, with one crisis after another.
Peter, a teacher who is much wiser when speaking to his students than he is in dealing with his own struggles, is played to perfection by Christopher Walken. In spite of his struggles, Peter remains the calm centre of the quartet when the others begin fighting. Robert and Juliette are played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener, who are also outstanding (as usual). The last member of the quartet is Daniel, played by Mark Ivanir, who also does well. The only other character of note is Robert and Juliette’s daughter, Alexandra, played by Imogen Poots.
A Late Quartet is a well-paced drama full of intelligent and thought-provoking dialogue and beautiful scenes. The cinematography is excellent and the score is as good as one might expect (the actors don’t actually play the score, but they were well-trained to look like they do). Directed by Yaron Zilberman, A Late Quartet may not be the masterpiece that Amour is, but it touched me in a way that Amour could not (maybe it was the music, which, despite the fact that Amour’s characters were also musicians, has a minor role in Amour).
So while I am only giving A Late Quartet a solid ***+, I liked it better than Amour. An independent film which flew under the radar, A Late Quartet is a gem that I recommend to everyone.