Take This Waltz

Sarah Polley is a writer/director who moved from in front of the camera (most memorably to me in Wim Wenders image of a doe eyed American smalltown West in Don't Come Knocking) to behind it in recent years, an intriguing move that I often think adds a depth of understanding to the possibilities of what stories films can tell, knowing how to push an idea using people & emotion as opposed to just placing ideas on top of a picture & skimming concepts that barely need to be in cinematic form. Her directorial debut, Away From Her (2006), was a quiet beauty of a film based on an Alice Munro story. The film poignantly told the tale of an aging couple as one of them slowly eased into senility. A subject I have witnessed first hand watching someone slip from person to an otherwordly state of existence, a change so hard to describe, so specific emotionally and physically that upon seeing Polley's film I thought everyone needed to see it as a form of empathetic dementia education for the widespread epidemic of Alzheimer's that we so silently ignore... Away From Her showed the complications of a partner slowly dissipating with age/illness and how this change effects their relationships, romantic and otherwise, all imagined in a very specific eye (richly composed shots, like moving oil painting tableaus in snowy fields and drab, decaying, graying suburban & nursing homes). With her newest film Polley takes on the often unexplored complexities of romantic relationships again but this time in a younger stage as she muses on how we have a tendency to grow within, apart and sometimes too close together in her depiction of a particular modern mode of marital status.

Take This Waltz, like the poem by Garcia Lorca Pequeno & the Leonard Cohen translation the title is derived from, is a screechy sunburst, water color meditation on what coupling, and its dissolution, is. The situations Polley poses in this film present a real side of how we've come to pair off and make lives nowadays, told from a younger indie-feminine cultural perspective (my friends own many of the outfits in this film) in a true tone that is rarely encountered on screen. A perfect example of the ongoing settling that happens in some relationships, an important sentiment in this film, was a sweetly harsh gag between the film's protagonists: Lou (Seth Rogen! And he wasn't annoying! And Sarah Silverman his alcoholic sister was wry, serious & non-cringe worthy too!) and Margot (Michelle Williams) fondly volleyed elaborate mocking versions of how they would grotesquely kill eachother (ex. "I love you so much I want to take your skin off with a potato peeler.")- a jokey familiarity, a warm, comforting routine, but also a representation of the nervous complacency that sits on the fringe of every Queen sized duvet cover.

Clunky heavy handed scenes (like that of older women in a gym shower that showed what is the fate of every perky breast) after the horrors of pool jazzer-cise (I have never seen the terror of gym culture portrayed so vividly & true to form- Zumba people, Zumba- shudder!) were also a kind of constant small nod at things that normally don't make it to the content of the big screen. Even though sometimes the dialogue was a little forced or twee, or the film plodding, it was the truths that propelled the film through the rich complex actors, ideas that are important parts of the day-to-day stories that need to be told about the dread of monotony, heteronormativity and that thing we all ignore everyday but is the fate of every person. Take This Waltz is about what we do to love, the forms it takes and, maybe, that that form may never be found anywhere in a real external form despite our greatest efforts to find, keep and understand it.



Donna K. lives in the Midwest and on the internet. Mostly she writes about her interest in the offline world.