“I love you so much I’m going to put your spleen through a meat grinder.”
After compiling an impressive résumé as an actor, Sarah Polley moved behind the lens for Away From Her in 2006. Away was a somber telling of a relationship between a sixty-something couple battling Alzheimer’s disease and depression amid past infidelities. I’m not sure that Polley has topped herself with her second feature, but what’s apparent is that she is, and will remain to be a presence for years to come.
It’s clear that Margot (Michelle Williams) doesn’t know what she wants; it’s evident she’s lost. She’s a freelance writer, and while on a job she meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), an artist/rickshaw driver. Fate works its way again and they end up sitting together on the plane ride back home. Margot mentions to Daniel that she has a fear of connections (obvious alert!). Flights and airports are what she speaking of, but it quite apparent there’s a veiled meaning just below the surface. Margot is married to Lou (Seth Rogan), an aspiring chef and cook book author, living in a nice home in the Little Portugal section of Toronto, Ontario.
Too often times, we’re force fed bullshit relationships that directors attempt to pass off as credible. The life that Lou and Margot share is believable, and Polley treats their lives and interactions fairly. We’re shown snippets of their charming life: inside jokes, home-cooked meals, and cold showers (you’ll see). Due to these intimacies, it makes it that much harder to accept when trouble inevitably arises. Margot continues to bump into Daniel, be it as they’re neighbours that somehow never crossed paths before. At first it’s innocent, on the way to the grocery store; later pre-planned, sharing early afternoon martinis in a local bar.
Williams is her usual steady self. She’s had a pretty incredible past few years with the releases of Blue Valentine (2010), Meek’s Cutoff (2011), and My Week with Marilyn (2011). She’s been a mainstay on the award circuit, and rightfully so. There are actually quite a few parallels between Valentine and Waltz; two sides to the same coin. (Although, it has to be said that the former side is as despondent as they come, while the other is still filled with a bubbly, albeit sad core.)
It’s a little infuriating to see someone live a pretty fruitful and should-be happy life, only to jeopardize it with the temptation of another man. Rogan isn’t eye-candy by any means, but his only apparent faults are an overly jolly laugh and an unhealthy love of poultry. Still, I understand that feelings change and people evolve; couples can grow apart as quickly as they form together. This is Waltz’s greatest skill: the accountability that comes with the subject matter.
The film is noticeably saturated, contrasting the bleak outlook of Margot’s day-to-day life. Waltz was filmed in Toronto, a vibrant city that is well represented in every shot. To put all Canadian minds at ease, yes, Leonard Cohen croons the track that spawns the film’s title. In fact, the entire soundtrack is filled with lively numbers.
Early on in the film, Margot is enjoying an aqua aerobics class with her friend Geraldine (a very reserved Sarah Silverman–that is, until a scene near the end where she gets to act more accustomed to how we’ve come to know her). After she spies Daniel watching her from the bleachers, Geraldine, Margot and others shower in the locker room. Once there, an elderly woman speaks on life and love. She laments on how new things all eventually become old, a statement that hits all too close to Margot’s home. Hers and Lou’s life isn’t wrong or bad by any means. It’s a matter of finding a spark, one that stays ignited for a prolonged amount of time.
Production Notes: Directed by Sarah Polley; Produced Susan Cavan, Sarah Polley; Written by Sarah Polley; Starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogan, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman