Review: A Late Quartet

05 Apr 13

A Late Quartet

Usually, when I’ve been to see a movie, I come home and write the review that night. And I try to follow a basic setup: a brief intro to what people can expect, a plot summary, a couple of paragraphs about how good/awful the film was, and a conclusion.

I don’t know what to do with this one, though. I cannot adequately describe it.

I am, in general, not particularly sentimental about moviesSure, there are some I love, some that move me more than others, but I’m not a sobbing-into-tissues kind of girl. I’m more of a watch-with-detachment-whilst-eating-pizza woman.

But this one broke me. And here’s the difficult bit: I can’t even explain why. It wasn’t the storyline per se, nor was it the soundtrack or the acting or the camerawork… it was the combination of all these things, I think, plus an indefinable quality of sheer awesomeness that can’t quite be put into words.

The movie opens with a string quartet on stage, sharing a look before they start playing to a packed concert hall. Gradually we are introduced to each member’s back story: the married couple with a grown-up daughter who are trying to redefine their relationship; the lead violinist who doesn’t seem to be able to chill out at all; the second fiddle who is sick of his role. And then there’s Christopher Walken, predictably amazing, playing the oldest member of the quartet who has just been told he won’t be able to play for much longer.

The story unfolds without any major twists or surprises, plods along in a fairly straightforward way until the final scene, when we see the quartet playing together again.

But oh god, the feeling in this film! Frequent close-ups of the actors’ faces, the way all four play their parts incredibly convincingly, the deep relationships and firmly embedded lives that are in danger of being shaken beyond repair create an emotional rollercoaster of a movie.

I think part of the reason it’s so moving is because the audience is led to understand how much of their heart & soul each member has poured into the quartet. It’s not like leaving a job, or ending a relationship you’ve been in for a few years; it’s the concept of a quarter of a century’s worth of work, love and labour potentially being destroyed. A true test of loyalties, and a question of what people see as most important in the world.

There, I’ve tried. I can’t really describe it properly, beyond saying that I had to stay in the screening room until the end of the credits, and then lock myself in the toilets for twenty minutes, just to compose myself enough to go back outside again.

Watch it. It might just change your life. And if you didn’t like classical music before, you’ll love it when you’ve seen this.

10/10 – Indescribable