Sarah Polley’s sophomore film explores the fine line between love and lust and seeks to ask questions rather than find answers. And while it can be a tough journey to get through, it’s worth the trip.
Margot (Michelle Williams) is happily married and seems content with her life in Toronto. However, she meets new neighbor Daniel (Luke Kirby) and they appear to hit it off. But unlike the classic romantic drama, or even romantic comedy, Margot’s husband Lou (Seth Rogen) is just as great as she keeps telling herself, and Daniel, he is. This love triangle obviously invites judgement of every character and a natural reaction is to find fault. But this is exactly what Polley’s film is about.
She invites that need to find blame but she doesn’t offer it up so easily. While Margot appears to have an idyllic life with Lou, some may also see cracks. It’s not one thing, it’s a lot of small things. They’re always expressing their love in a language they’ve developed over the many years of their relationship but the back and forth banter could also be viewed as stale. This ambiguity is precisely what Polley is after, though. In retrospect, it makes one question the entire film, every scene and every characters’ every action. Yet, at times, it can be a chore to get through it.
What Polley and her cast excel at is creating a loose, realistic environment. Rogen and Williams are examined through long scenes of silence, peppered with baby talk and normalcy, really. They seem like a couple that’s been together for a long time. They enjoy one another’s company but there isn’t really any spark anymore. That’s what Margot finds in Daniels. Unlike Lou, who’s great and stable, Daniel is mysterious and sexy. A sexual tension exists between them that’s long been expired with Lou. That’s not to say they aren’t attracted to one another, they’ve just settled into a routine. Margot almost unknowingly questions this routine once she meets Daniel. It wasn’t until he arrived that she even began to rethink the trajectory of her life. Polley captures of all this perfectly and the cast creates that tension, or sometimes lack of tension, that makes it such an interesting film to dissect.
But Polley also falls prey to what many atmospheric indies do as she sometimes lingers a few moments too long. Not every scene feels as if it’s always driving the characters forward and even when they do, they can overstate their meaning. While her and her cast are able to express the abstract ideas the script explores, some scenes would feel more powerful ending earlier instead of persisting. At times this works to create a vacuum of domesticity between Lou and Margot but it can also suck some of the power out of some of the more revelatory moments. In her defense, this isn’t a film about plot. It’s a character study in the strictest sense. As the audience learns about Margot, so does she, and like the audience, she’s unsure of the dilemma set in front of her. Does she give in to her obvious attraction and strong connection to Daniel, or is Lou her perfect husband?
Ultimately it’s a strong film and Polley expresses it beautifully but that doesn’t always mean it’s fun, or easy, to watch. It can be tedious, again sometimes rightly so, while also be passionate. Williams is especially powerful as Margot, creating a strange anxiety mixed with ennui. Rogen and Kirby are similarly great, as is Sarah Silverman in a smaller role as Lou’s alcoholic sister. It’s a film about how sometimes there isn’t a clear villain, if there is one at all, or even a hero in the story. Sometimes it’s just a bunch of people trying to live their lives the best they can.