Seeking love in infidelity

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 25/08/2012
michelle williams
Lucy Nicholson
Actress Michelle Williams

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TAKE THIS WALTZ

Director Sarah Polley
115 minutes

The camera adores Michelle Williams. Even at her most difficult, directors can't help but bathe her in a luminous glow.

It's hard to determine exactly why she has this effect - perhaps it's her mix of intelligence, natural beauty and vulnerability.

She needs every bit of that presence for Canadian director Sarah Polley's latest film, Take This Waltz.

It requires Williams' character, Margot, to frequently infuriate the viewer, yet still maintain their sympathy.

Somehow, Williams manages to pull it off.

Take this Waltz is a modern take on an age-old trope: the faithful wife who might want something - or someone - different.

Her husband, Lou (a surprisingly low-key Seth Rogen), is obliging, good-humoured and a cookbook writer. It really shouldn't matter that his upcoming book is entirely about chicken recipes. After all, most people like chicken, don't they?

Yet across the road, there's an artist, Daniel (Luke Kirby), who might suggest the sort of change she needs.

If only she has the courage to take the plunge.

Take this Waltz dangles the audience's emotions on a string by ensuring it's a contest of equals between Lou and Daniel.

Kirby's Daniel is charming, but oddly feckless, while Rogen's Lou is sincere but oblivious.

For all its contrivances, these are lived-in characters, and the film's sexual and emotional frankness feels earned.

Ironically, it's Margot who is the most immature and uncertain character here.

True, Polley occasionally overplays her protagonist's sense of stasis: a scene in an airport terminal is a tad on the nose, as is the fact that Margot is a free-lance travel writer.

Yet the film's feel for incidental detail, ranging from the use of the more bohemian parts of Toronto, to the haunting soundtrack, compensates for this.

But Take This Waltz relies so much on its lead that I couldn't imagine it without her.

Margot might be difficult to love, but Williams certainly isn't. A surprisingly affecting film.

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