Take This Waltz
(MA) Hopscotch DVD/BD
This Canadian indie romance wobbles uneasily between kitchen sink realism and clichéd Mills and Boon territory.
While travelling for a work assignment, 28-year-old Margot (Michelle Williams), a married freelance writer, meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), a single struggling artist who makes a living as a rickshaw runner.
On returning home to Toronto, they discover that they are neighbours: Daniel lives across the street from Margot and her husband, Lou (Seth Rogen).
Margot and Daniel drift into what appears to be an affair of the heart — sexually charged but platonic — as Margot seems determined to remain faithful to her husband. The intensity of the affair is contrasted with scenes of Margot’s married life with the kind if stolid Lou: familiar, reassuring and loving but also sometimes dull and unsatisfying.
Up to this point, the film seems a contemporary version of Brief Encounter, albeit marred by occasionally stilted dialogue and self-conscious quirkiness. If its dramatic momentum is largely driven by sexual tease (will they, won’t they?), it’s also fuelled by the sadness of love unrealised and the challenges of fidelity.
“New things are shiny,” says a young female character. “New things get old,” responds an older woman.
Unfortunately, the film staggers seriously off course in its final sequences, which seem both under-written and at odds with earlier developments. Margot’s choices and their consequences are depicted in a contrived montage (which includes several confusing sex scenes). A subplot involving Lou’s sister feels extraneous and similarly contrived.
The actors do their best given the limitations of the script. Rogen is credible as the struggling husband and Kirby is charismatic as the romantic hero straight from central casting (sexy, sensitive — and conveniently always turning up just when required).
Williams manages to convey a sense of Margot’s restlessness and vulnerability but sometimes tries too hard to charm.
The film takes its title from the Leonard Cohen/Garcia Lorca song (which also graces the soundtrack) but, sadly, this flawed film makes a clumsy partner to Cohen’s haunting and elegant waltz.