This engrossing, well-developed screenplay does not match the brilliance of writer/director Sarah Polley’s debut film, Away From Her (2007) but it still demonstrates her prolific talent, and is both highly watchable and engaging. While her earlier film dealt with issues surrounding ageing and Alzheimer’s, this time she has moved to territory that is possibly more familiar to her.
Take This Waltz, a title shared with a famous Leonard Cohen song used in the film, deals with younger relationships and unions, and is set in modern-day Toronto, Polley’s hometown. Margot (Michelle Williams) is a writer in her late 20’s, married for five years to Lou (Seth Rogan), a cookbook author. Their relationship has become too comfortable, and although they relate very easily and clearly share a great deal, Margot is not entirely satisfied. Lou senses her restlessness but isn’t sure what to do; he becomes passive and allows events to unfold around him, almost as if they are leading to a foregone conclusion. On a business trip, Margot meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), an artist, and the two are immediately attracted. She is simultaneously delighted and dismayed to learn that he is her next door neighbour. As time goes on, she is torn between her love for Lou, her fear of hurting him and her attraction for Daniel, which becomes all the more electrifying the more she tries to resist it.
Although there is a great performance by Sarah Silverman as Margot’s alcoholic sister-in-law, generally Take This Waltz is very focused on its three leads. It is intense and consuming, as is appropriate for the subject matter. The pace is slow, possibly too much so, although it is suited to the languid heat of the Toronto summer, depicted so effectively. Given the saturated colours used throughout the film, Margot’s wardrobe of sundresses and the intense heat of the passion between the illicit couple it could not have been any other time of year!
A particular strength is the dialogue throughout the film, which is funny, believable and naturalistic. While Polley has relied on a few coincidences and slight implausibilities to advance her narrative, when it comes to what her characters say to one another, she is spot on! As with her first film, she has also shown herself to be a deft hand at getting great work out of her cast. Both the male leads are strong, with Seth Rogan surprisingly convincing in a more dramatic role than his usual comedies.
However, it is Michelle Williams who shines here. She just gets better and better with each project she takes on. As with every performance she gives, she is entirely convincing as Margot, a young woman making a transition in her life a she approaches 30. Williams is irresistible on screen – the camera loves her and it is impossible to take your eyes from her expressive face. She is able to completely inhabit her roles, making us forget at the time what she has done before; it is only afterwards, that you remember that last year she was Marilyn and before that, a battling pioneer in the mid 19th Century in Meek’s Cutoff.
Take this Waltz isn’t a perfect film, but it is intelligent, smart and ultimately satisfying.
RATING: 4/5 RECOMMENDED!
Take This Waltz is released in cinemas on June 7. Its trailer is shown below.