Margot (Michelle Williams) is a writer whose latest assignment has taken her to Toronto and a tourist attraction there. On wandering the place taking notes, she happens upon a group of actors performing a historical display and she is encouraged to pretend to whip one of them who plays an adulterer, as one of the tourists tells her to be more forceful in her behaviour. The encourager is Daniel (Luke Kirby) who notices Margot at the airport later, except curiously she is in a wheelchair, and as coincidence would have it, they end up sitting next to each other on the plane. He just has to ask...
Take This Waltz was seemingly inevitably for a Canadian relationship drama named after a Leonard Cohen song; they're not all wrapped up in the work of Laughing Len, but sometimes it can feel that way. It was the first film as director for Sarah Polley after the flawed Away from Her five years before and saw her improving in style, as if she had been soaking up director's skills in the interim though for much of this film it appeared dangerously close to taking tips from Miranda July such was the quirkiness quotient. Unlike July, by the end you weren't royally irritated with what you had seen and more satisfied by the conclusion of the drama.
Which was odd because it ended on an ambiguous note, mainly because the love triangle that concerned still had much of their lives to live, and we could tell the story was not over for any of them. That triangle took the form of Margot and Daniel for two angles, plus the complication that Margot was married to Lou (Seth Rogen), and very happily as well, indeed he cannot see anything wrong with their cosy existence together as he researches his book on cooking chicken - he's a writer too - and she does whatever it is she does, as these people seem to have a lot of free time to dawdle around in. Adding to the emotional confusion is that Daniel has moved into the house across the street in one of those movie movie coincidences Polley's script thrives upon.
So where there are apparently no problems in Margot and Lou's marriage, we are about to see that there are actually plenty, with she claiming to he one mealtime that she has to truly pluck up courage to seduce him, and that in spite of them being wed for going on five years. He's baffled, and the tone veers between wacky cutesiness and deeply serious let's have a talk about our feelings business which makes for a bumpy ride when some of it is genuinely funny and at other times it manages to be troubling. That was chiefly down to Margot and Lou being so right for each other so that she doesn't really need Daniel in her life, yet nevertheless there he is, quietly insistent that she would be better off fulfilling her fantasies with this handsome stranger.
Daniel is very much that embodiment of Margot's inner wish that she should be swept off her feet rather than spend the rest of her days in stable contentment, which she not only has trouble admitting to herself, but risks losing the audience's sympathies as well. Polley's adherence to the offbeat can perform the same uncertain function, such as a scene where not only does Margot "foul the pool" during aqua aerobics because she's laughing at the instructor so much, but it's continued with the camera following Williams, Sarah Silverman playing her alcoholic sister-in-law, and a gaggle of mature ladies into the shower where we get quite an eyeful. If you can cope with brazen idiosyncrasy then you'll get on with Take This Waltz better than most, but even if you're thinking these people can tell you nothing for much of the plot, stick with it and you'll see Polley was playing a long game and we can perceive the general dissatisfaction of (and with) Margot can be very thought-provoking. Music by Jonathan Goldsmith.