One reason why people love watching movies is the escapist quality inherent to the artform. And it’s not just about movies taking you to different places and times. Occasionally, when the right type of movie hits you at the right time, there’s something more sublime to the experience. It’s also about seeing the relationships you wished you had, and the relationships that perhaps you’ll never have.
A movie that can do this to you is Take this Waltz, Sarah Polley’s follow-up to the deeply moving Away From Her. The film borders on the fantastic — from the vibrant rainbow colors of the world the characters inhabit to the peculiar childlike behavior of Margo (Michelle Williams), the movie maintains a sense of a heightened reality.
Margo meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), a cavalier guy who’s aware of his own good looks and charms, while doing a historical tour in Louisburg. As luck (or the rules of scriptwriting) would have it, their seats happen to be beside each other on their flight home to Toronto. They share an intimate journey together that doesn’t quite cross the line into romantic territory, but you’d have to be blind not to see the sparks fly.
They take the same cab ride together and just before he drops her off, Margo drops a bomb:
Not to be outdone, Daniel replies:
“That’s too bad, because I live here.”
It turns out that the series of (un)fortunate coincidences wasn’t over — they’re neighbors. What happens next is an intricate dance between Margo, Daniel and her husband Lou (Seth Rogen), with Margo torn between her partner for five years and the personification of her deep-seated fantasies. In all honesty, Margo has absolutely no reason to ever want to leave Lou. He’s romantic, he’s a nice guy and he can cook chicken in lots and lots of ways (he writes cookbooks on how to cook poultry). But here comes Daniel anyway, the manic pixie dream guy who exudes mystery and passionate romance, and Margo gets attracted to him like a moth to a flame.
On one hand you can say that the movie captures the natural progression of love — people fall in love, and they also fall out of love. It’s a brutal truth that sometimes, no matter how hard you work on a relationship, there really is nothing left to salvage and there’s nothing else that can be done. But it’s also hard not to sympathize with Lou and how he is victimized by Margo’s vacillation. He really has no chance against Daniel because Daniel isn’t a real character. He’s just too perfect to be anything real. Instead he’s the embodiment of a set of circumstances that takes Margo out from the reality she has constructed for herself, a confluence of factors that made her examine whether the relationship she had was one worth keeping.
Behind Polley’s exquisite, lush shots is a rich contemplation on choices, the fear that accompanies making them, and the courage needed to eventually come to a decision. When it comes to love, there rarely are right or wrong choices. There are just hard ones.