2011, 1 hour and 56 minutes
Written and Directed by Sarah Polley
When a marriage is going through challenging times, it is extremely common to become consumed with thoughts about how there must be something out there that is better. Such thoughts can be especially powerful if there is someone else in the picture. Whether the energy with that other person is physical or purely emotional, it is easy to imagine that life with this other person would be much, much better. Indeed, for those who act on these ideas, things often DO seem a lot better with that other person, especially while the relationship is new. But as time passes, many people end up facing similar challenges with the new person as they faced in their marriage. Plus, especially if children are involved, they must face these same old struggles while also navigating the aftermath of a divorce.
Take This Waltz writer and director Sarah Polley understands this phenomenon and explores it in superb and realistic detail. Margot (Michelle Williams) is silently dissatisfied with her five year marriage to Lou (Seth Rogen). She loves him but feels bored, lonely and disconnected. When she meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), sparks fly. What follows is a classic but unusually realistic and intimate study in how pointless it can be to try to fix a broken marriage if there is someone else waiting in the wings. It is especially futile if the person who is not happy is not willing to be completely honest about the extent to which they are questioning their commitment.
Margot vacillates between trying to make her marriage to Lou feel more sensual, and stealing secret. flirtatious time with Daniel. In one of many memorable scenes, Margot showers at the pool with Lou’s sister Geraldine (Sarah Silverman) and another friend. Geraldine is struggling in her own life and marriage, and the ladies have an open, honest locker room discussion about love and commitment. Their conversation attempts to answer the central questions of the film: if your marriage feels routine, what can you do? Would a new relationship ultimately fix the problem?
Geraldine: “I sometimes wonder if there’s any point to shaving my legs. I mean, I’m pretty certain James wouldn’t notice either way. Who am I shaving my legs for? Married life; kinda depressing. But sometimes I think, after ten years who’s going to take a really active interest in whether I shave my legs or not and at least after all this time I like James. Is it worth trading all that in for something exciting with someone I might NOT like in ten years?”
Friend: “Sometimes I just want something new, you know? New things are shiny.”
Older woman eavesdropping from across the room: “New things get old.”
Geraldine: “That’s right. New things get old, just like the old things.”
If two people genuinely care for each other (especially if they have children) it is worth cutting off all contact with anyone who may be contributing to fantasies about how great life could be in a new relationship. Try directing some of the energy that was going to that other person toward seeing if your marriage can be saved. Tell your spouse that you are unhappy and that things have to change. Give your marriage six months in couples therapy with no contact with that other person. Spend time working on yourself and your marriage. If both partners are willing to make the effort, your flirtatious experience with someone outside the the marriage can actually become a wake up call and a catalyst for tremendous change and improvement. Unfortunately, not all marriages can be saved. If this is the case, at least you will know you tried. In addition to these steps, find a quiet, private time to view this brutally honest, insightful film.