Earlier this month, the Starz Denver Film Festival kicked off its 35th anniversary with a red carpet screening of A Late Quartet. The film—which stars well-regarded actors Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Mark Ivanir, and Catherine Keener—focuses on the challenges faced by a prominent New York City string quartet when cellist Peter Mitchell (Walken) tells them he's been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
The drama builds with each plot turn: The group is preparing for its 25th anniversary performance. Peter wants to make the upcoming season his last. Second-chair violinist Robert Gelbart (Hoffman) sees an opportunity to modify the group dynamic by moving himself to first chair, a position already held by Daniel Lerner (Ivanir). Robert's wife, viola player Juliette Gelbart (Keener), has an especially hard time adjusting to the idea of the quartet without Peter, her mentor. Then tension between the pair boils over when Juliette uncovers an extramarital affair. To complicate matters more (if that's possible), the couple's daughter, Alexandra (Imogen Poots), starts her own romance—with Daniel, her violin instructor. Beethoven's 14th string quartet, Opus 31 provides background music and structure as the movie unfolds.
Each actor learned to play short musical phrases on their respective instruments for the film, and the cast is believable as musicians. But you don't need to know anything about chamber music to appreciate A Late Quartet. While music is the common thread, the story, like so many others, is about the complexity of relationships, and all of us can relate to that.
See it: A Late Quartet opens tonight at Chez Artiste.
—Image courtesy of West End Films