Actress turned director Sarah Polley has been directing since she was 20 years old and her most recent film as a writer and director, Take This Waltz shows a maturity and confidence that is beyond her 33 years. Take this Waltz is basically at its core a tale of the grass not necessarily being greener and is achingly sad and painfully beautiful.
Beginning with one of those chance encounters we all experience from time to time, Margot (Michelle Williams) finds that whilst on a work trip she encounters Daniel (Luke Kirby) a charming and good-looking chap and a connection is made despite her initial reservations. On the trip home they share a taxi ride and to her horror, Margot realises that Daniel is a newly moved in artist/rickshaw driver who lives opposite her. Margot shares her house with her affable cook book writer husband Lou (Seth Rogen) but there is a disconnect there despite them seeming to really love each other. As time goes on Margot finds her thoughts being taken up by the fantasy of being with Daniel and the two of them go out of their way to run into each other and the relationship develops.
Take this Waltz will be considered by many to be one of those films where nothing really happens, we get long scenes of Rogen and Williams either in bed together or in the kitchen fooling around and just being a couple who have known each other for a long time. The scenes with Williams and Kirby are where the film really comes to life as the two flirt and dance around each other with charged scenes of dialogue where the sexual tension is palpable. What Polley wisely does with this film and with these scenes is let the relationships come to life on-screen and let the characters breathe so that the final scenes are all the more powerful and sad. If you are one of those people who need constant forward momentum in your entertainment then this probably isn’t the film for you but if you are one of those people who appreciate a more considered approach then this film is extremely rewarding.
Polley and her cinematographer Luc Montpelier shoot this film through with a dreamlike quality which is especially prevalent in the latter scenes. Simple things like walking down a Canadian street, taking a swim or taking a fairground ride are made to look like the most amazing things in the world and you are right there with the characters thanks to the use of songs to underscore the importance of memory in romantic entanglements.
Michelle Williams is one of if not the best actress currently working, her performance here could have been one to actually hate as it’s a flighty indecisive sort of character but Williams makes her likeable and a woman searching for happiness no matter how misguided. When the woman cries the whole world cries with her. Luke Kirby is also pretty likeable in what should have been the villain in any other kind of conventional narrative romantic drama. A lot of what makes the character just the right side of likeable is in the writing and Kirby brings the character to full believable life.
Seth Rogen doesn’t really get much to do but due to being one of the most likeable actors we currently have he doesn’t have to do much except show up and then get all of the sympathy as things go along. Where Rogen really comes to life is in his scenes with Williams where the two of them share a naturalistic chemistry that is truly believable even down to the speech patterns that long-term couples share. Perhaps best of all though is Sarah Silverman in a supporting role as Margot’s recovering alcoholic sister-in-law. For a long time it seemed Hollywood didn’t know what to do with Silverman, casting her as a bitchy girlfriend was the easy option. Here Polley puts her in a pivotal role which is so true to life and she manages to get the key scene which sums up the entire message and core of the story perfectly.
Take this Waltz is a draining, beautiful experience of a film and one of the best of last year. Like many of the best understated independent films of the last decade it hits a core human truth dead on and lays it out perfectly for all to see.
Take this Waltz is out on DVD and Blu-ray on the 7th of January.