“Take This Waltz,” the second feature film from writer-director Sarah Polley, based on her screenplay which made the coveted Black List in 2009, represents a step down for Polley after her splashy film debut, “Away from Her,” which boasted a towering performance from Julie Christie.
The movie has good moments, but they don’t add up to an illuminating portrait of a breakup of a sexless marriage, or to a particularly interesting chronicle of a new, sensual relationship.
Whereas Polley’s feature film directorial debut, “Away From Her” was the tender story of a couple in the winter of their married life, “Take This Waltz” follows a younger couple, married for only a few years, moving from the springtime of their romance, settling into what should be a warm, loving life together.
Take This Waltz begins with heat. Margot is baking muffins in the humidity of a Toronto summer. Heat radiates from the oven, sunlight filters through the windows, and as Margot leans up against the stove, the film becomes a sensory experience.
The story is rather simple: When Margot (Michelle Williams), 28, meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), their chemistry is intense and immediate. But Margot suppresses her sudden attraction, believing (or rather deluding herself) that she is happily married to Lou (Seth Rogen), a nice, sensitive man, who’s consumed with his work as a cookbook writer.
Lou is dull but a good husband, durable in his affection for his wife. Grounded in his kitchen, he diligently works his way through chicken recipes. In contrast, Margot, is a zephyr. Temperate in her self‐awareness, untethered by intention, she is easily propelled by inspiration coming from others.
Initially, side by side, making all the proscribed choices young urban couples are advised to make, they move towards their future. Lou, contentedly, and Margot, because she is his wife. Clearly, something is missing from Margot’s life.
When Margot learns that Daniel lives across the street from them, the certainty about her domestic life shatters. She and Daniel steal moments throughout the steaming Toronto summer, their eroticism heightened by their restraint. Swelteringly hot, bright and colorful like a bowl of fruit, “Take This Waltz” leads us through the familiar question of what long‐term relationships do to love, sex, and our images of ourselves.
Set in Polley’s hometown of Toronto, she proudly romanticizes the city, showing her affection for the tree‐lined streets and downtown residential areas tucked in around neighborhood restaurants and cinemas. Placing the story right onto the city’s sidewalks, streetcars and beaches lends much needed authenticity and color to a rather conventional tale.
The title of the film, “Take This Waltz,” comes from the Leonard Cohen song of the same name, the words of which Cohen interpreted from “Little Viennese Waltz” by the modernist poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca, who was assassinated in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.