As struggling travel writer Margot (Michelle Williams) scribbles in her notepad during a visit to an 18th century fortress, she has a fleeting, whimsical encounter with a man she will probably never see again. Only later that day the very same man, Daniel (Luke Kirby), appears in the seat next to her on the flight home, their mutual infatuation quickly becoming overt and undeniable. As they share a taxi home, to Dan’s amazement and delight, it turns out that they actually live on the same street. The beginnings of a perfect (if blatantly ironic) love story, then - except of course for the fact that Margot is already married to Seth Rogen's Lou.
Margot soon begins to battle out a solo tug-of-war between her head and her heart, torn between the guarantee of a happy(ish) future with her husband and the desirable honeymooning of a new relationship. However, as prophetically spoken by a one-line character during a full-frontal shower scene, 'new things get old just like the old ones did’…
Take This Waltz is at its best when delving into the cracks that begin to form in the midst of a failing relationship. The loveable but unwitting Lou spices up his chicken recipes more than his sex life and feels perfectly content with the vapidities of conjugality. Oblivious to the actual reasons behind Margot’s early morning strolls, he tries to deal with his ever-glum wife by reviving the cutesy in-jokes and childish pranks that were once the foundations of their relationship. While Lou recognises that things have changed, he simply accepts it as a fact of life.
For her part, bored and frustrated with the routine of married life, Margot is enamoured by the illusion of 'the new' and pushes the boundaries of faithfulness further back with each tryst. As she struggles to come to terms with her feelings for Dan and lack thereof for her husband, she searches in vain to rediscover the love of their early years. But as her every attempt at seduction is brushed off, it becomes increasingly harder for her to resist the prospect of many a-rapturous romp with the boy next door. As exciting as that may seem, however, replacing the old with the new would ultimately be no different than the ephemeral joys of a ride on a funfair attraction (a scene aptly accompanied by 'Video Killed The Radio Star'). Cohen's titular track finally appears in a craftily constructed sequence chronicling the short-lived intimacies of new relationships, exposing once and for all the disillusionment of puppy love.
The chemistry between the trio is palpable and sincere, though much is owed to the talented cast. Although her teary-eyed character is frustrating at times, Michelle Williams plays the fragile and confused Margot with a great deal of passion and cements her position as one of the strongest actresses around. Rogen, whilst still the provider of comic relief, plays a character refreshingly out of his comfort zone and easily emerges as one of the film’s highlights. Sarah Silverman also makes a surprising turn as a recovering alcoholic and, together with Rogen, brings a cunningly light touch to the wistful drama. Kirby is perhaps the weak link, only because his character, who runs a rickshaw and drapes his living room with his own quirky artwork, feels overly contrived and unnatural.
Polley offers an interesting exploration of marriage after the dust has settled, gravitating around the inherently flawed idea of the grass always being greener on the other side. Although the plot feels muddled at times, it is Polley's perceptive and nuanced look into relationships that places it firmly within the realm of refined 'slice of life' cinema.