Film Review: Take This Waltz

By Joseph Cardle

Directed: Sarah Polley

Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Luke Kirby

Rating: ★★★★★

I’m not completely sure how I feel about Take This Waltz yet.  I mean, yes, five stars, one of the best films of the year so far and so on. But it’s still bouncing around in my head, like a diamond in a rock tumbler, so here’s the deal: go see Take This Waltz. In the meantime, I will type until I get to five hundred words, and then stop. Hopefully what I’ve typed will make sense, or at least as much sense as anything I type tends to make. Here goes.

Everyone has seen, felt, lived, God help you, the slow-burn death-decline of an erstwhile loving relationship. And it sucks. It sucks, not just because all the doubts and resentments and fears that have been allowed to fester in the dark recesses of your mind are aired out: it sucks because, ninety-nine per cent of the time, no one involved knows what’s happening. To their partner, to the world, to themselves, a clue they have not. This is terrifying. Margot (Michelle Williams), ostensibly our protagonist, embodies this dread. She’s frightened of airport connections, of not knowing where to go, what to do. Frightened she’ll miss that flight and never get it back, or get on the wrong plane and regret it forever. She’s frightened to stay with her husband, Lou (Seth Rogen), because the snap and crackle has faded, and neither of them can get words around it, fumbling around with childish euphemism instead. She’s frightened to commit to a dalliance with Daniel (Luke Kirby), the artist who lives across the street and pulls a rickshaw for a living, because Lou’s still a good guy, and deserting him for the kind of excitement and passion that Daniel represents would be an indulgence. “Life has a gap in it, it just does,” Margot’s sister-in-law, Geraldine (Sarah Silverman), warns her, “Don’t go crazy trying to fill it.”  The grey area between two well-defined states, between the haves and have-nots, and the endings and beginnings: this is where Take This Waltz lives. It’s sometimes joyous, sometimes depressing, mostly strange and uncomfortable, as walking unknown territory often is. It’s a mood I’ve never seen rendered so vividly, or so completely. The writing, the cinematography, the abstract slices of music, and four miraculous performances combine to create a film that is earthy, and earnest, and beautiful. There’s a scene, about half-an-hour in, where Margot and Geraldine attend a swimming pool exercise group. The instructor is hilarious: his routines are like drama workshop roleplaying games, delivered with perfect camp conviction. Daniel shows up unexpectedly, watching from the bleachers, and the ridiculousness of the whole thing hits Margot, who laughs so hard that she pees, ending the lesson. It’s a perfect, embarrassing, cathartic moment that has been lived a thousand times before, but never articulated with such poetry. To use a tired expression, it feels like the truth.

I think I know how I feel about Take This Waltz now. I feel relieved. Somebody gets it.