It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
She is one of the greatest violinists in the world, and then suddenly one day her fingers feel strange and she cannot play. At first she denies there is anything wrong with her, but eventually she must admit that she has multiple sclerosis and that although there will be good days when her talent seems to have returned, she will be able to depend on her body less and less as the days go by.
That is the starting point of "Duet for One," and we may think we can predict where the movie will go, but we will be wrong. This is not a recycled version of all those countless other disease movies in which there is either a miraculous recovery or some sort of transcendent symbolic victory over death's dominion. This is a quirky movie about a woman who is stubborn and angry and confronts the disease in her own particular way.
The character is played by Julie Andrews, who brings a certain haughty confidence to this violinist, who is good and knows it. There are a few people she has allowed to become close to her: her husband (Alan Bates), her manager (Margaret Courtenay), her old accompanist (Sigfrit Steiner), her gifted student (Rupert Everett). As her disease progresses, she will have to redefine every one of those relationships.
Her husband, weak and alcoholic, will leave her. The student will find it difficult to deal with her illness and impossible to accept the demands of his talent. The old accompanist will die and then reappear in the movie's most mystical and effective scene.