Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz opened to mixed reviews with no moderate ground as audiences either proclaimed their love for the film or announced a general aversion to the film. I thoroughly enjoyed her latest work, but not to the extent that I would say this is a cinematic tour de force; the film has its disappointments, but its redeeming qualities are greater.
Polley captures the beauty that is Toronto in every shot. The blurring lights and the hustling streets of the city scape coupled with the discomfort of the hot, humid days remedied only with the coolness of the nights and the intrusive roar of the fans nicely capture a sense of unease as Margot (Michelle Williams) contemplates an affair with her neighbour across the street. The cinematography nicely encompasses the fluctuation of emotions as Margot struggles with the repetitiveness that cripples her love for her husband, desiring an escape from the monotonous routine that governs over her married life. Ranging from the claustrophobic setting of the bedroom, to the kitchen, to the shower, the shots intricately weave together to demonstrate a seemingly stunted relationship that isolates them as a couple. These shots that unfold in the bedroom and the kitchen are repetitious and at times, uninteresting, and although they are meant to reflect the sterility of the couple, they can, at times, reflect the un-inventiveness of film. Beyond this fixed home setting lies an urban scape in which desire interrupts the cutesie couple routine that characterizes Margot’s married life, and eventually, Margot succumbs to this obtrusive desire, giving into a more mature love life as she ever so serenely takes this waltz.
Polley balances the seemingly everlasting quality of relationships against the finiteness of them. The characters discuss the intrigue that comes with something new and the obsolete quality of the old. Whereas Lou (Seth Rogan) discusses his sentiments on growing old together and the nostalgia that grounds a relationship and secures it, the women in a local swimming class consider a stark reality on the aging body and the consequences it has on a relationship. There was some controversy over the shower scene that reveals the nakedness of women ranging in age as each discuss an unembellished take on growing old together that differs significantly from Lou’s romanticized version of love.
The writing is one of the strongest points of the film. Much of the humour stems from the dialogue and much of the passion that cannot be experienced physically is beautifully delivered in speech. Daniel (Luke Kirby) delivers a monologue that so outwardly and boldly outlines what he would do to Margot in bed. The passion that he communicates here differs from the pg-version that characterizes her relationship with her husband. This cutesie relationship between husband and wife is comical, discomforting, and as the film progresses, it can be annoying. All in all, the actors do a great job illustrating the struggle, the emotional collapse, and eventual growth that typify the relationships that punctuate our lives and make us the intricate, fun-loving, complex people we are.