Life With Music aka: Coda

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Life With Music
dir Claude Lalonde
scr Louis Godbout
prd Nicolas Comeau
with Patrick Stewart, Katie Holmes, Giancarlo Esposito, Christoph Gaugler, Letitia Brookes, Drew Davis, Cedric Noel, Violette Chauveau, Catherine St-Laurent, Victor Trelles Turgeon, Patrick Mallette, Beat Marti
release US 1.Feb.20,
UK 27.Jul.20
19/Canada 1h36

stewart holmes esposito

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stewart and holmes
Infused with classical music, this gentle drama unfolds with dense dialog, dark emotions and lyrical landscapes. The filmmakers also travel into the characters' minds to reveal memories, fantasies and fears. All of this makes the movie feel somewhat pretentious and mopey, while the meandering pace makes it feel a lot longer than it is. But the actors add light to their roles, and there are several evocative moments.
As stage fright creeps up on him, famed British pianist Henry (Stewart) is beginning to feel that it's reckless to play in front of an audience. Of course his manager Paul (Esposito) encourages him to just get on with it. Then after a big comeback concert, music critic Helen (Holmes) reminds Henry that his advice changed her life while she was in college. So after she helps him overcome another attack of nerves, he agrees to be interviewed for an article. So when his on-stage struggle gets even worse, Paul calls Helen in to help.
Writer Godbout and director Lalonde take a rather wistful, over-serious approach to the story. They inject the odd moment of warm wit into the dialog, but most conversations are nostalgic, accompanied by classical piano riffs. Henry speaks about the tragic death of his wife; Helen reveals details about her abandoned career. And there's a spark of romance between them across their near 40-year age gap. Meanwhile, scenes flicker between Henry's concert tour and a visit to Switzerland, the meaning of which emerges vaguely much later on.

Performances are earnest and somewhat sentimentalised, packed with easy smiles and knowing nods. But there are energetic touches here and there to breathe life into the characters. With terrific presence as always, Stewart deploys his gravitas effortlessly, nicely underplaying Henry's worries while focussing on his thoughtful approach to the people around him. Holmes also gives an internalised turn, often watching and laughing silently or offering a gentle touch. So it's great that Esposito is on-hand to liven things up as the loyal but impatient Paul.

Not much actually happens in this movie, which is based around whispered conversations and unspoken emotional journeys. The classical music score strings all of this navel gazing into a fluid narrative, following Henry from concert halls to Alpine splendour as he tries to make sense of his life experiences. The script makes some knowing comments about ageing and meaning, although some of the more heavy-handed metaphors never quite resonate. It's aurally and visually lyrical, but it's also rather dull.

cert 12 themes, language 27.Jul.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall