Take This Waltz 2012 ★★★★★

In the opening scene of Take This Waltz, Michelle Williams wanders around an old fort in Cape Breton and takes part in a mock flogging of a pilloried adulterer. The crowd is sitting in judgment of this person, which will become the experience of seeing Take This Waltz for the rest of it's runtime.

This is an impossible film to fully discuss or promote without opening up about a lot of personal baggage, secrets, heartbreaking betrayals, and bittersweet memories. Your experience with this film will greatly vary based on your own personal experience of events portrayed in the film, which has a narrative but is often purposefully ambiguous enough to allow one to project their own story upon these characters... and yet Sarah Polley offers the viewer no favors along the way. There are no easy outs for these characters. The husband is not a bad guy. The Other Man is flawed, and my own experience cast him as the villain. Suffice to say.... this one hit extremely close to home and is not exactly something I'd care to discuss at length with a person who did not enjoy it. I am not sure I can even say I enjoyed it. It's an experience film, through and through. Sometimes funny, sometimes nightmarish and mostly unpleasant, but an experience that was worth having.

There are a few things I could nitpick that ultimately for me do not matter. Some dialogue is obviously an analogy that will be called back. Some characters will spell out the themes a little too bluntly for the benefit of people who cannot bring certain experiences to the film, or represent people who have not. This was a little on the nose.

So... this film will provoke an extreme emotional reaction. There are moments and things said that will inspire some people to just plain turn it off because they cut too deeply. I can see people finding this overly quirky or pretentious. I found it extremely observant and emotionally intelligent, appropriately realistic but also fantastical and symbolic, a less binary Blue Valentine, far more nuanced, honest, and difficult.

Somewhere in Toronto Sarah Polley is in danger of sudden hugs from strangers, including me. This is a film I am in no rush to see again - I don't need to, it will sit with me for a long time - but is probably now my top film of the year.

3 Comments

  • I absolutely hated Michelle Williams by the end of this film, since she is willing to destroy a loving marriage, just so she can get laid by the "sexy stranger." It didn't help that the screening I went to had Luke Kirby in attendance and he is actually a bit of a douchebag.

  • I can't say anything to that other than through my own personal experiences coloring the film, it's a lot more complex than that. The way she feels rejected over something he saw as just having to cook dinner, Luke's role as a symbol/savior who also can't leave alone but also refuses to take responsibility for his own actions. The film drips with guilt, does not apologize or excuse her actions. Sarah Silverman's character is the one flogging her by the end, and I get what she's saying but she's also wrong because again, things are a lot more complex than that.

  • Excellent review, Corey. I'm right with you on this one, including the acknowledgments of nitpicks that are totally justified. There's a lot of complexity to the emotional states of pretty much everyone involved, particularly Michelle Williams. There's two personal biases involved - one being my ex-fiance once did very similar things in this, and the other being that "Video Killed The Radio Star" is my favorite song and has taken on a whole new meaning for me after seeing this. The reaction I had to this, is up there with some of the best films I've seen about relationships, but this one floored me in a way that is hard to parse. Thanks for the kind words about my review. I also understand anyone having an opposite reaction to this - it's full of raw honesty to the point of potentially creating anger in the viewer.

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