A tight-knit string ensemble begins to go slowly out of tune in A Late Quartet. Centred around four outstanding performances, Yaron Zilberman’s fiction feature debut feels like the work of a film-maker who knows and appreciates the art form under scrutiny, laying a credible foundation for a story that lays bare the often melodramatic passions of the artistic soul.
After 25 years of faithful collaboration and celebrated musicianship, the Fugue, a New York-based chamber quartet, finds itself in danger of dissolving. On the eve of the ensemble’s 26th season, cellist Peter (Christopher Walken) quietly informs his three younger colleagues that he’s in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. The impending shake-up spurs second violinist Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to suggest that he be allowed to play first chair on occasion, to the irritation of Daniel (Mark Ivanir), the quartet’s tightly wound first violinist. Caught in the middle is violist Juliette (Catherine Keener), who also happens to be Robert’s wife. Given how tightly the personal and the professional are interwoven here, it’s no surprise that lines get crossed as a quarter-century’s worth of perceived slights and unspoken resentments rise to the surface.
Justin Chang, Variety