Take This Waltz is the second directorial offering from Sarah Polley, a follow up to her successful debut, Away from Her.I came away from the film not entirely sure what to make of it: impressed by the acting and drawn to its overall colour and atmosphere, yet somewhat unconvinced by certain moments in the dialogue and plot. In a way, however, this may be a fitting reaction, given the fluctuating feelings of doubt, anxiety, love and desire that permeate its narrative.
The film is centred on the relationship between Margot (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen), shown predominantly through the eyes of Margot. The two live a comfortable life of domesticity in Toronto, with Lou compiling chicken recipes for a cookbook (as you do), and Margot working as a freelance writer. At the start of the film Margot heads to Nova Scotia on a work trip and meets artist and rickshaw rider, Daniel (played by Luke Kirby). The two are seated next to each other on the return flight home and, even more coincidentally, discover that they live merely a stone’s throw away from each other in Toronto. Their chance meeting marks the start of Margot’s inner restlessness and struggle with her feelings for Lou. These feelings represent the overriding theme in the film: that human quest for happiness; the rose-tinted search for something new and concurrent fear of “being in between things.”
Michelle Williams beautifully straddles the vying states of childish impishness, sexual desire and overwhelming anxiety that dominate Margot’s character. Seth Rogen, meanwhile, is brilliant as the adoring, goofy yet lovable husband, Lou; his portrayal reveals an affecting vulnerability that has not, I believe, been quite so apparent in Rogen’s other characters to date. Luke Kirby does a good job as the enticingly attractive and sensitive artist, despite the relatively unrealistic nature of his character. A special mention, however, must go to Sarah Silverman, who offers a poignant mix of humour and fragility as Lou’s sister, and recovering alcoholic, Geraldine.
The film flits between bursts of humour and vibrancy and moments of sadness, longing and passion all in short spaces of time. The musical soundtrack mirrors these varying emotional states, with unobtrusive acoustic music punctuated with stretches of silence to great effect.
Despite the far-fetched nature of the basic premise (married girl meets guy on plane who happens to live down the road from her), Take This Waltz is a touching film that is beautifully acted and wonderfully shot, showing us that Polley’s earlier success was no fluke. What is more, the film prompts some important questions about love and happiness, reminding us too about the way in which the decisions we make in life can deeply affect those around us.