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Film Review: Take This Waltz

All the Right Moves

by Kristen Mitchell – June 15, 2012

Canadian writer and director Sarah Polley is best known for her 2006 feature Away From Her, a film inspired by Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.” And though her sophomore film, Take This Waltz, draws inspiration from a Leonard Cohen song as opposed to a piece of fiction, Polley still manages to infuse subtle Munro-eque nuances in this film, creating characters that are flawed but sympathetic, transparent but complex. It can be jarring at first—this honest and unapologetic tone that we’re not used to as viewers—but once Polley’s film gets into its unique groove, it really finds its footing, pulling us into a world that is both heart wrenchingly funny and terribly sad.

Margot (Michelle Williams) first meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) during a historical re-enactment for tourists in the town square of a 19th century French fortress. Their connection is instantaneous, and it’s enhanced when they serendipitously find themselves seated next to one another on a connecting flight back to Toronto. And even more, they share a cab from the airport, only to learn that they live across the street from one another. While I could have done without so much whimsy, Polley did handle it subtly, and the first meeting isn’t nearly as cheesy as I make it sound.

There’s one slight problem with this chance encounter: Margot is going on five years with her husband and chicken-cookbook writer extraordinaire, Lou. As the film moves forward, it becomes obvious that Margot and Lou are tripping over each other’s feet, mostly due to Margot’s restlessness.

The film is at its best when Margot and Daniel steal moments throughout the summer, their eroticism and tension heightened by their restraint. Luc Montpellier’s cinematography has an ethereal quality to it, one that transitions between golden haze and color-drenched precision. These shifts serve as a sort of visual metaphor for the relationships themselves; and the differences between quick-lived, pulses of joy and familiar, confusing doubt.

The final scene feels more like clips from a music video than a natural progression on screen, but I think this is Polley’s intention. To show us that life is essentially a bunch of moments strung together, and there will always be interruptions. As Margot’s sister-in-law and ex-alcoholic Geraldine (Sarah Silverman) says towards the end of the film: “You think everything can just be worked out if you make the right move. In the big picture, life has a gap in it, it just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it like some f***ing lunatic.”

And while Williams’ character may take some missteps, the film itself doesn’t. Take This Waltz moves effortlessly, showing us the damage that long-term relationships can do to love and intimacy, and how even newfound passion deceives us, eventually growing familiar and old.

 

Fun Fact: The lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Waltz” derive from “Pequeño Vals Vienès” (“Little Viennese Waltz”), a poem originally written in Spanish by Federico Garcia Lorca.

Film Release Date: June 29, 2012 (Limited)

About the Author: Kristen Mitchell

Born and raised in a suburb just outside of Chicago, Kristen is no stranger to this city’s Cheekiness. After a four-year retreat to rural Indiana, she graduated from DePauw University with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Spanish.