Michelle Williams is Margot, a writer, not the kind she wants to be, lives in Toronto with her hubby Lou (looking good Seth Rogen) and is afraid of being afraid, more specifically being in between things. Cue Daniel, not only a fine name but a fine face to match. Played by Luke Kirby, Daniel is a new neighbour and soon to be the third point of our romantic triangle. As Margot rightly puts it when she figures out the guy she’s been flirting with on the way back from the airport lives across the street: Gah!
Polley portrays well the bumps in the marriage, the little things that build up to big problems and the frustration Margot experiences trying to express here needs to Lou. He is pretty much doing his best impression of a brick wall. He just doesn’t get it and the more they say ‘I love you’ the more convinced you are that that isn’t enough. Band aid on the crack of an emotional damn…it’s all going to get a bit leaky!
Margot days are spent baking in her kooky house with her painted blue toenails and her cookbook hubby’s extended family occasionally coming round for lunch. One of them is Sarah Silverman, Lou’s on-the-wagon sister who, like us, is on Margot’s side. She sees, she advises and eventually berates Margot. It’s beginning, middle and end Obi Wan Kenobi mentor type stuff.
I’ve never really seen Silverman act and I’d never seen her naked but now I have seen both! There is a total nude shower scene, which is in no means like the one in Carrie but seems to be a celebration of women of different ages. Just being who they are, looking like they are and passing on their knowledge of life and men on like watery nakedy soothsayers. Then suddenly one woman goes at her nether regions like she has a scrubbing board between her legs – it was rather brutal and an odd way to end the scene!
Margot’s extended family are important to her and this reminder literally hangs in front of us in the form of wall covered in photos. It is not enough of a focus to distract from the growing curiosity and desire she has for her neighbour. The more forbidden their silly conversations and martini meetings become, the more they want to see each other but all they can do is talk. Sometimes it’s sexy talk but, all the same, it’s just talk.
The film works well with the motif – you can look but you can’t touch. Moments shared between Margot and Daniel, from playing with a paper clip between them when they first meet, swimming around each other at the pool and - my favourite scene in the whole film - when they sit in the sparkly magic of the whirling fairground ride. This scene expresses everything they are feeling in motion and image alone and works a charm; yet again Michelle Williams gets to use her sad face. Margot’s got a lot to think about.
In the end she makes a choice (heed the words of the showering ladies Margot!) It leads to Leonard Cohen’s deep words playing over a swirling camera and the high followed by the inevitable low. This scene struck me as looking uncannily like the dance studio scene in Dirty Dancing and I think it’s fair to say both Margot and Daniel and Baby and Johnny have the whole forbidden love/good girl gone bad thing down. And so we saunter on to the end of the film…
The fairground scene is revisited, when Margot takes a ride by herself. The ride seems to represent escapism and while the film paints a pretty bleak picture for Margot, it seems what Polley was trying to tell the audience all along is maybe Margot needed to work on herself. She needed to write that book, let her husband cook his chicken and try to address the problems in her marriage before running away with the hottie, unfulfilled-artist-who-won’t-exhibit-his-work, across the street.
Like the old wise naked woman in the shower said: “New things get old too” and these words foresaw it all for Margot’s relationship with Daniel. I can’t say I wasn’t confused by the films message. I don’t think it portrayed either the fantasy or reality of an affair and some of Margot’s thoughts, from her Gaylord outburst to shadows making her cry, were the lower points of a charming script, but I enjoyed Polley’s building of a family and a life around these three flawed individuals and am interested to see what dance she’ll lead us on next.