Sara Polley’s Canadian film Take This Waltz will be released in the UK on August 17th. For those of you who don’t know, it’s actually a film from 2011; it premiered in Canada last year in the Toronto Film Festival. So I managed to watch this earlier from the UK release. This is my review before the release.
Margot (played by Michelle Williams) is a freelance writer living a happy domestic life with her husband Lou (played by Seth Rogen). Things change, however, when she encounters Daniel (Luke Kirby) in the airport, where chemistry immediately starts to spark and her emotional and sexual desires start to grow. To make the situation more complicated, she finds out that Daniel happens to live just across the street! How long before her new and exciting desires start to kick in? Things are slowly crumbling apart.
Before I continue, I must be completely honest and confess something: I can’t review this. As I was watching this with my sister I realised that I’m not really the right person to review this film. This is a film about love and long-term relationships and infidelity… and I’ve never experienced any of these kinds of things. I pray to myself that I won’t cheat on any partner, but so far I have never fallen in love or dated anyone. I don’t feel like I have enough experience to truly understand this kind of topic, so I really don’t know what to say about the film in terms of those major themes. Thankfully I have my sister to help me out with these themes. So did she believe these themes were portrayed realistically and well? She said absolutely.
There are films when the girl wants to cheat on their boyfriend or husband. And filmmakers fail at that when the justified reason is because their partner is boring or a jerk. Thankfully this is not the case. Margot is a very fragile and quirky person who acts more like a kid than a real adult: always laughing and giggling with her friends. Lou is a sweet guy with a good heart (and a passion for chicken recipes for his new book). So what’s wrong with the relationship? As much as they care about each other, their relationship is more centred around intimacy than it is passion: they act like more like boyfriend and girlfriend than husband and wife. In fact, there may be very little to no passion at all, as she finds out for herself. Lou is possibly more committed towards Margot than Margot is to him. Margot starts to doubt her relationship with her husband as passion starts to grow between her and Daniel. Sooner or later things will fall apart. My sister said that this scenario was very believable and that even some moments in the film were expressed very subtly.
For example, Daniel and Margot first share their affair by sharing a martini and… Daniel sharing his filthy sex fantasies to her. At first this might look a bit strange from audience’s perspective, but then in a very subtle and clever moment, they swim together in a pool and then Daniel touches her ankle… that’s when Margot realises what she’s doing and immediately leaves. It starts out as erotic dialogue as a representation of fantasising an affair. But when they make contact for the first time in the pool, just by touching the ankle, Margot realises that this fantasy is turning one step closer to reality. Soon it’s won’t be fantasising anymore and it’ll ruin everything. Let me compare this with a different scenario: just picture yourself in a diet, and you’re fantasising about a chocolate cake in front of you. But then you eat a bit of the frosting and you stop yourself before you eat the entire cake (or at least a slice of the cake… you know what I mean). So that was done pretty well.
My sister felt, however, that Margot was too quirky in the film and that it was hard for her to relate to that, but I thought Margot was ok. She’s definitely quirky and vulnerable, and Michelle Williams does a good job with that. She’s known for playing Marylin Monroe in My Week With Marilyn, and Marilyn’s portrayed as a girl with charm and beauty, but also uneasy in some situations. Marilyn’s also very innocent, playful, fragile and naive. So I can see why they’d choose Michelle Williams for this role. Besides, even though she’s having an affair with her caring husband, we still feel for her. That’s one example of a good character: even though we know that character does bad things, it’s hard for us to hate that character.
We also get to see women naked in the shower (and also naked in a few other scenes), but it’s nothing sexualised or anything. They’re just seen naked and that’s it. I think the point is that usually films tend to over-sexualize women to make them more appealing to the male audience (that theory’s called the “Male Gaze.” Look it up), especially in nude scenes, but this is one of those rare times when women are just seen naked without any particular camera technique, effect, lighting or editing. That fact can also be explained by the fact that the director of this film is a woman. She’s not filming this in the perspective of a man. She’s filming female nudity in the perspective of a woman. Sara Silverman (one of the characters in the film in that nude scene) commented on this scene:
“… It’s so unsexualized. […] Women are naked in front of each other every day. It’s a very common, comfortable thing. You’re trying on clothes, or you’re in the shower at the Y. But the female nudity in movies is always sexualised. Sarah [Polley, the director] said, ‘It would be interesting to see this everyday occurence that’s never mirrored on film.’ There’s no music telling you how to feel. there’s no sexy lighting. I keep using the word jarring. It isn’t funny or dramatic. It just is.”
This helps, because that scene in particular, as well as most of the film, is presented through a female perspective. That’s something I found really interesting and very rare.
There are other details which I loved. There’s this scene with the revolving camera and showing time pass by. I really liked that. And another thing I loved was the ending scene. I won’t spoil what it is, but let’s just say that because of the ending, we realise that the opening scene of the film was very deceiving.
I honestly didn’t remember the supporting cast, but that’s just me. What stood out for me were the three main characters.
Overall, it’s a very nice film, although I think my sister enjoyed it more than I did, I think because she felt there were more moments of recognition. Anyway, it’s a cute, sweet, and funny film, very well directed, the main cast is great and I think people will like this a lot.