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Film Review: A Late Quartet

26/03/2013 13:21 GMT | Updated 26/05/2013 10:12 BST

Yaron Zilberman's debut feature, A Late Quartet is a delicately handled and brilliantly-observed relationship drama about the internal dynamics of a world renowned string quartet. When the group's 'cellist, Peter (Chistopher Walken) is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, he reluctantly informs the group that their next performance will be his last. However, the departure of their leader throws the quartet's future into the balance as the group's suppressed emotions, competing egos and resentment threaten to derail years of friendship and collaboration.

Every relationship in A Late Quartet is a victim of enforced intimacy, whether it's between parents and their children, married couples, or the members of the string quartet. Our protagonists are inescapably bound to each other through their domestic lives, work and reputation, and when the bitterness and resentment that builds throughout the film reaches its crescendo, everything is put at risk. The performances are all superb, particularly Christopher Walken's heartbreaking turn as the avuncular Peter. Philip Seymour-Hoffman is on top form as embittered, downtrodden second violinist, Robert, and his relationship with his violist wife, Juliette (Catherine Keener) is utterly convincing. Mark Ivanir completes the quartet is emotionally repressed perfectionist, Daniel, and perfectly captures the character's personal and sexual frustration. British rising star, Imogen Poots also impresses as the neglected daughter who further risks the stability of the quartet with a surprisingly underhand cry for attention.

The real star of the show, however, is Beethoven's exquisite op. 131; a late masterpiece and the greatest of the composer's strong quartets. Zilberman is obviously passionate about the music, and treats it with the same respect as our four leads. Filming actors attempting to convincingly replicate such virtuosic string playing is an impossible task, but a tremendous amount of effort has been put it to make the performances seem as genuine as possible. There is a refreshingly undiluted attitude towards the way in which music is portrayed and discussed in A Late Quartet; technical musical terms and informed conversation are not omitted to avoid alienating the audience, and it adds a level of richness and authenticity to the characters. Zilberman has produced a very believable human drama, and the claustrophobic dynamic of a string quartet is an inspired way to explore way in which relationships are strained and tested under intense pressure.

A Late Quartet is a measured and uncompromising relationship drama with four terrific performances; an intelligent and well-crafted debut from Yaron Zilberman.

★★★★★

A Late Quartet is released in cinemas and On Demand 5 April 5th April.

The film is a simultaneous release with Sky Store and Curzon Home Cinema - visit www.alatequartet.co.uk for more information.