Splendid performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener meld with the timeless emotional verities of late Beethoven in this mature, satisfying saga about a venerable string ensemble. Walken, a NY music school professor and eminence grise of the Fugue Quartet, stuns his colleagues with the news that illness is about to quicken his retirement, but he may have one last season left in him – if, that is, the ongoing tensions between quartet leader Mark Ivanir and bristling second-violin Hoffman don’t get in the way first.
Writer-director Yaron Zilberman has even more melodramatic developments up his sleeve, but his documentary background shows in the absolute credibility of the milieu, and his loving understanding of the music shines through. The result is a thoughtful, yet far from forbidding affair, which lives through its thespian and musical performers. We hear the Brentano Quartet, but believe utterly in the expressive eloquence of a marvellous cast. Walken, in particular, delivers an absolute masterclass. (Notes by Trevor Johnson.)