DIRECTED BY SARAH POLLEY
A TIFF sensation in 2000, Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love seems to have served as potent inspiration for two wunderkinds of Canadian filmmaking. In 2010, Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats lovingly appropriated Wong’s swoony, slow-mo tracking shots, while, with TIFF ’11 gala selection Take this Waltz, director Sarah Polley delivers a slow-burn infidelity drama that evokes Wong’s lush palette and erotic restraint.
After meeting by chance on a trip to Nova Scotia, would-be travel writer Margot (Michelle Williams) and rickshaw driver Daniel (Luke Kirby) discover that they share an intense romantic chemistry, as well as very nearly the same address in Toronto’s Portugal Village. The seemingly happy coincidence is complicated by the fact that Margot is married to Lou (Seth Rogen), whose devotion is obvious, but whose profession—he’s a cookbook author who prepares nothing but chicken recipes—is symbolic of a relationship that has lost something of its spark.
If Williams and Kirby don’t quite share the same smoldering magnestism as Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung—In the Mood for Love‘s iconic leads—they’re certainly a compelling pairing, and they work well in Polley’s less-heightened context. Apart from its forbidden-soulmate-next-door conceit, Take This Waltz skews closer to mumblecore than florid melodrama, and, above all, exudes an awkward, affecting honesty.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t false moments. (Even allowing for Daniel’s fancifully palatial digs, and Polley’s creative reconfigurations of Toronto’s West End streets.) The screenplay—Polley’s first original effort—is hampered by some ham-handed dialogue, while a climactic late-film montage, in particular, verges on the preposterous. By and large, however, Take this Waltz is a sensitive, evidently heartfelt depiction of marital ennui, typified Rogen’s aptly subdued, against-type turn.