It was five years ago when Sarah Polley made a great first impression with her debut feature film Away From Her. Her very subtle and touching film about a person suffering from Alzheimer’s earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. This year she brings us Take This Waltz, a film which quite possibly could earn Polley her second Oscar nomination.
Michelle Williams plays Margot, who while on a business trip in Nova Scotia meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), a handsome artist. The two flirt with each other, and as they talk they learn that they are both from Toronto. It is only when they share a taxi home from the airport that they realise they even live on the same street. It is only when Margot arrives home that we learn she is already married to cook book writer Lou (Seth Rogen). They have a rather comfortable marriage, but now that Daniel is in Margot’s life, their relationship starts to break down.
Margot and Lou’s problems don’t just arise overnight though. This isn’t a film where characters make decisions just because it suits the story. Sarah Polley really takes her time, and allows the characters to decide what way the story goes while avoiding the temptation of using cliché or cutting corners. When Polley does bring in more eccentric and humorous scenes, she still manages to keep things truthful and involving. The most impressive thing though about Polley’s approach is that she asks the audience to do something that most directors wouldn’t, and that’s to accept the idea of an extramarital affair.
It goes without saying that this film contains rather sensitive material, but Polley does well to keep it under control. She is aided along the way by a couple of stellar performances from the main cast. Michelle Williams goes back to the realms of the brutal romance, just like when she starred in the superb Blue Valentine, for which she received an Oscar nomination. On this occasion however she dives into a performance which may well be her most complex yet. Seth Rogen is surprisingly sombre as Lou, the husband who you get the feeling knew something was wrong in his marriage sooner than he lets on. Polley of course doesn’t constantly try to make him look like a victim, but Rogen’s performance does provide some of the film’s more emotional moments.
What separates this from the majority of films about infidelity is that Polley isn’t able to dive under the skin of the characters, no matter what we will find. And at its heart it has a simple but tragic message that no matter who we are with, we will always be alone. It’s very risky, but it’s subtle observations make this a masterfully told story.
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