Rom-coms may be a major staple on the movie conveyor belt but writer and director Sarah Polley’s (Away from her) latest film, Take This Waltz, is part of a lesser known genre – the anti-rom-com – and succeeds in exposing Hollywood’s myth of romance.

Polley’s provocative and surprising tale challenges traditional ideas of love, relationships and behaviour with a potent script that shares the poetry of Leonard Cohen’s song of the same name.

The stand-out film of 2012 stars Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Shutter Island) as Margot, a witty, young and intelligent Meg Ryan-esque girl next door alongside Seth Rogen (Paul, The Green Hornet) as her caring and funny yet unsuspecting husband, Lou. Across the street from Margot lives Daniel (Luke Kirby), the ever-present other man.

Attracted by the idea of a life with Daniel, Margot engages in the flirtatious exploration of her feelings when fantasy mixes with reality until its inevitable conclusion. But Take This Waltz is far from predictable and the beautifully crafted narrative quickly takes Margot and the audience on a journey of discovery until we’re left with the ending we least expect.

All the motifs of a romantic fable are here: aspiring writers; a frustrated artist; chance meetings; and a bohemian lifestyle which idealises the realities of work, responsibilities and contemporary city life, and lulls the audience into the conditioned expectations of a romantic fantasy.

Williams is spellbinding as starry-eyed fantasist Margot, a character who is restless, indecisive and constantly looking for a fairytale ending. Casting Rogen as Lou was an unexpected choice but the Canadian actor as he injects equal amounts of pathos and wit to the part, far removed from his previous comedy movies. Sarah Silverman (The Good Wife, School of Rock) is forceful in her portrayal of recovering alcoholic Geraldine, Margot’s sister-in-law and friend.

In fact Geraldine insists Margot is a recovering romantic endlessly searching for her next hit. Margot admits she ‘hates being in between things’ and actively seeks out the next thing as if in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction.

The Canadian film’s gorgeous cinematography is littered in metaphor as in the ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ scene, were the darkest of meaning is hidden under the lightest of pop tunes, a stunning example of Polley’s storytelling.

Take This Waltz is a rewarding and critical look at our views and expectations of love and romance and is a layered treatise on how romantic behaviour is reflected in movies.

In an attempt to challenge the Hollywood orthodoxy (as in the perverse take of the ‘Harry met Sally’ scene) and deconstruct the romantic myth, Polley has created a potential masterpiece.

Take This Waltz is showing at FACT now

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