- Created on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 18:56
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By SHEILA PRITCHARD
Sarah Polley’s Academy Award-nominated 2006 film, Away from Her, an adaptation of Alice Monro’s story The Bear Came Over the Mountain, explored infidelity at the end of life. Five years after her impressive writer-director debut, the Canadian actress’s second film, Take This Waltz, starts with similar problems in a young marriage. The result is equally outstanding and moving.
Based on her original screenplay, Polley’s rom-com is beautiful, sexy and maddening, just like protagonist Margot, portrayed by Michelle Williams.
When Margot, a 28-year-old freelance journalist, meets Daniel, played by Canadian Luke Kirby, their chemistry is immediate and intense. But Margot suppresses her sudden attraction because she is happily married to Lou (Seth Rogen), a cheerful, humorous and slightly overweight cook writing a book on different ways to prepare chicken.
Margot and Lou have been married for five years and live in the attractive Portugal Village in downtown Toronto, a distinctively old-fashioned, bohemian area of the city, boasting charming little cafes and restaurants amid quaint, multi-coloured houses.
But the film begins elsewhere, at Louisbourg, an early 18th-century French settlement in Nova Scotia but now a colourful holiday resort, where Margot is on assignment to write material for a travel brochure. This subtle, yet carefully staged and detailed opening sets the emotional tone and theme for the rest of the film. It is here that Margot first meets Daniel.
By a stroke of coincidence or an act of fate, it turns out that this attractive, mysterious stranger lives on her street in Toronto. When Margot learns that Daniel lives across the street from her and Lou, the certainty about her domestic life shatters. Margot is not happy with the routines her married life has fallen into, despite having in Lou a kind, tolerant, flexible man to confide in.
She and Daniel steal moments throughout the summer, their eroticism and attraction heightened by their restraint. As the film progresses, Margot and Daniel spend more time together and, ultimately, she leaves her husband to be with him.
There’s a serious undertone to Take This Waltz, brought by Lou’s recovering, but shaky, alcoholic sister Geraldine (Sarah Silverman). Geraldine, who had perceived what was happening all along, relapses and confronts Margot while drunk, telling her she should have just accepted that life “has a gap in it” and changing relationships was not the answer.
Take This Waltz is a truthful and honest film. Only on rare occasions does it hit a false note. The film is a tug of war for audiences’ hearts, a source of delight as well as distress.
Like the Leonard Cohen song, Polley’s film evokes relatable feelings and common experiences in a way that goes beyond what can be explained and only felt.
Polley leads viewers, laughing, through the great theme of this superb film, that imperfection is all anyone ever learns from love.