Take This Waltz (15)

 

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The Independent Culture

The young writer-director Sarah Polley made a proper grown-up movie for her debut, the tormented late-life romance Away From Her (2006) that starred Julie Christie. Her second has a greater visual flair and feel for colour, though in terms of psychological insight it's much woollier, and its set-up is more conventional.

At heart, it's a portrait of a woman who's on the edge and doesn't quite know it. Michelle Williams plays Margot, a vaguely dissatisfied 28-year-old in middle-class Toronto married to Fozzy-Bear-cuddly Lou (Seth Rogen), who's writing a chicken cookbook.

Their relationship is happy, comfortable, dull, and involves a lot of baby talk (ugh) and mock-vicious threats, so when Margot meets hunky Daniel (Luke Kirby) on a plane and then discovers that they live opposite each other, you know that trouble's on the way. "I'm afraid of connections," she says, referring to her phobia around airports but meaning something, uh, deeper.

The line illustrates Polley's shortcoming: she's a much better director than she is a writer. Her summoning of mood is tremendously assured, such as the scene in which Margot and Daniel ride a fairground waltzer to the yearning strains of "Video Killed The Radio Star" – and look broken by its sudden ending.

But the backstories ring false: Margot never seems to do any work (she's meant to be a freelance travel writer), Daniel is too well-off to be a rickshaw driver, and Lou looks like a guy who's never read, let alone written, a recipe in his life. Williams has fine expressive features, but she's often as annoying as she is adorable, too ready to wrap herself in a shawl of waifish victimhood.

After Wendy and Lucy, Blue Valentine, My Week With Marilyn and now this, I feel guilty saying that she can be a bit of a wet blanket. Take This Waltz has its moments, and a lot else you could call self-absorbed tripe.

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