Take this waltz

Director: Sarah Polley
Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, and Sarah Silverman
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
Runtime: 112 mins. Reviewed in Jun 2012
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong sex scenes and nudity

This is a comedy-drama film about a relationship break-down between two married people. It analyses the enormous complexity of human closeness.

Michelle Williams plays the role of Margot, a free-lance journalist, and Seth Rogen takes the part of her husband, Lou, a writer-chef. They have been married for five years, but they have grown too comfortable with each other. As Lou expresses it, after an anniversary dinner between them without any meaningful conversation at all: “we live together, and know everything about each other”. Contentment has eliminated excitement from their lives. Playful, superficial verbal protestations of attachment are passed constantly from one to the other, but the emotional expression of deep commitment has been allowed to ebb away. The marriage begins to break down when Margot finds herself attracted physically to the charming and smooth Daniel (Luke Kirby), who lives in the house opposite.

Sarah Polley was the director, who gave us “Away From Her” (2006) which achingly told the story of a woman, whose husband was unfaithful to her, being struck down suddenly by Alzheimer’s disease. Here, she brings the same compelling honesty to a relationship threatened again by infidelity. Before, it was infidelity of the man, and now it is of the woman.

Margot is distracted from the feelings of closeness that can bond long-term relationships together. She is looking for attention from a husband, whose mind is on other things, as he goes about writing his soon-to-be published cook-book. The dynamism of what once existed for Margot in her relationship with Lou is caught up in the sexual feelings aroused in her by Daniel.

Infidelity and personal conflict are captured movingly by the performance of Michelle Williams, who is outstanding as Margot. The subtleties of attachment, both familiar and sudden, are acted-out wonderfully by her, and Seth Rogen conveys exceptionally well the feelings of being betrayed as a husband. He has lost the commitment and attachment of a wife he loves, and he tells Margot that the past for him can never return.

Sarah Polley, who also wrote, and produced this movie, directs the film with a profound understanding of the shifts and changes that characterize human relationships, While some people grow through those changes to cement their commitment to each other, Margot loses her way. What “might have been” is conveyed powerfully in a film that is as subtle, as it is intelligent.

The morality conveyed by this film is not really at issue. Margot knows she is being unfaithful, and is plagued by the tensions of her relationship to Lou. Her character, like that of Lou and Daniel, is flawed, and the film plays brilliantly with situations that are a part of every-day human life. Daniel first gets to know Margot after she is being wheeled around at an airport (because she fears making airport connections), and Sarah Silverman is Lou’s alcoholic sister, who needed Margot desperately when she wasn’t there.

Daniel and Margot make explicit physical love to the sensuous accompaniment of Leonard Cohen’s “Take this Waltz”. But the film is also a waltz around maturity, the loss of excitement with age, and the fragility of relationships that can’t sustain themselves under the stresses that are laid upon them. As loneliness sets in for Margot after the excitement with Daniel has faded, the major moral lesson of the movie is that life for her has changed at enormous personal cost.

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