A Late Quartet

Can someone please remind American Airlines not to play downers during in flight movies??  A good artsy type of a film for sure, but I much prefer a cheesy slapstick comedy when traveling at 30,000 ft to steady my nerves.

The film has a cast of true acting greats like Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener and slightly less flashy but  still great Mark Ivanir. It was directed by Yaron Zilberman.

The story revolves around a world renowned string quartet which calls itself the Fugue.  Three of the players are of the same generation and the cellist, played by Walken is their former instructor.  The story delves into the complexly intertwined personal and professional lives of the group and its seemingly imminent demise.


Two of the players (the second violinist and violist, played by Hoffman and Keener) are married with a daughter (Alex, played by Imogen Poots).  However, we come to understand that there is also a sexual/love history between Keener and the First Violinist played by Ivanir.  Furthermore, Keener’s character Juliette was orphaned and essentially adopted by Peter Mitchell, the cellist (Walken).  Peter Mitchell is aging and recently lost his wife, which affected both he and Juliette profoundly.  Also, he finds himself newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and at a loss for how to reconcile the changes his body is starting to undergo with performing in the quartet.

keener and hoffman2

Juliette is dealing with issues of loss and seems kind of dead inside.  She is not able to give Hoffman’s character (her husband Robert) the support he needs, both sexually and psychologically and this causes Robert to have a bit of a mid life crisis.  Meanwhile, the obsessive perfectionist first violin Daniel, played to perfection by Ivanir finds solace and humanizing in the arms of the young Alexandra.

ivanir and poots

The characters are all really well acted, aided by great writing that facilitates a profound depth of interpretation of all the roles.  I played violin fairly intensely in my youth, so the politics of the musicians’ hierarchy made a lot of sense to me and were accurate and insightful.  The setting is of course New York, and I thought it was interesting that it gave sort of an insider’s view of New York, not the superficial rich New York that we usually get in the movies.

keener and ivanir

Overall, a deep film, worth a viewing.  But know what you’re in for, because it leaves one feeling a bit uneasy.  Enjoy!