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mt-take-this-waltz-mongrel-0264“Take This Waltz,” the second feature from actor-turned-director Sarah Polley, is a bittersweet Canadian kitchen sink drama about being trapped in a marriage with someone who can’t speak his mind and falling in love with someone who can’t help but speak his mind.

Margot (Michelle Williams) is a struggling writer married to Lou (Seth Rogen), cookbook writer and home cook. Married for five years they have a loving but superficial relationship. She’s not unhappy exactly, but she’s not entirely happy either. When she meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), a quick talking neighbor, painter and rickshaw driver, she must make the painful decision about whether it is worthwhile to trade someone old for someone new.

In her last film, “Away from Her,” Polley placed Alzheimer’s disease between a husband and wife. Here she shows what happens when one partner takes a relationship for granted.

Polley creates complicated relationship patterns in her films, weaving together small moments to create a large and profound truth. “Away from Her,” is a sublime mix of the mundane and the heartfelt, just like real life. “Take this Waltz” too is an interesting look how relationships unravel but has a much more melancholy edge. From the minor chord music that makes up much of the soundtrack to Williams’ terminally sad expression—her face fluctuate between joy and sorrow with just a very slight change in expression—the movie redefines bittersweet.

We never really see the upside of Margot’s relationships and it’s hard to know when she’s happy, or if she’ll ever be truly happy. The focus here is a little fuzzier than it was in “Away from Here.” Margot’s search for happiness a little less defined. Some audiences will get it, others will likely find her self serving.

So why spend time with Margot, Lou and Daniel? Apart from the beautiful shots of Toronto neighborhoods (although Torontonians will notice that the geography doesn’t make any sense!) “Take this Waltz” is recommended for the uncompromising way it presents its story. This isn’t a rom com, although there are laughs and it isn’t a traditional romance. This is a refreshingly raw slice of life with all the frustrating things that make us human front and center.

Williams, Kirby and Sarah Silverman (as Margot’s sister-in-law) hand in strong work, but for me the surprise was Seth Rogen’s naturalistic performance. As a comedian I expect him to always go for the joke, and while he does raise the odd smile all his reactions—humorous or otherwise—are completely derived from the situation and feel authentic.

“Take this Waltz” doesn’t have the emotional impact of “Away from Her,” but it is a different, lower key story about the erosion that an undercurrent of tension can have on a relationship.

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