Sarah Polley, who is mainly known for being an actress in such films as Splice, Go, and the remake of Dawn of the Dead, gave us her directorial debut six years ago with the film Away from Her. It was a fascinating story of an elderly woman (played marvelously by Julie Christie) who develops Alzheimer’s and how her husband attempts to cope with the situation. Now she returns behind the camera for her sophomore effort which involves a different kind of couples drama.
First we meet Margot (Michelle Williams), who is traveling in order to update a pamphlet at a historic site. It is here that she first meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), a man that she ends up sitting next to on the plane ride home. Strangely enough, he actually lives right across the street from her and her husband, Lou (Seth Rogen). Lou and Margot have a rather strange relationship. At times they seem quite happy, like when they are joking and being all lovey-dovey with each other. At other times, one will randomly spurn the advances of the other. This leads her to strike up a relationship with Daniel, which gets stronger and stronger as the film goes on.
If that synopsis gave you a feeling of déjà vu, then don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is a premise that has been done countless times before, and in more interesting ways. What the film basically boils down to is a woman who is split between two men, and though we’re supposed to be feeling something for all three of these characters, it becomes really hard to do so. This is not the fault of the performers, but more so problems stemming from the screenplay.
We’re supposed to get the feeling that these people really do exist, which would lead to caring about what happens to them. However, Polley’s screenplay uses such a basic, clichéd premise that these characters are never allowed to become fully-formed people. When the story gives you no reason to care about the characters in a film that stretches on for a bloated runtime of two hours, it can make for a very long sit.
Aside from that, there are other annoyances that the film offers. I’ve already mentioned how Lou and Margot have a strange relationship, but that actually ends up being one of the film’s problems. It shifts back and forth so randomly between their irritating lovey-dovey behavior to the sudden desire to be left alone that you eventually just wish that they would make up their minds.
There’s also the problem of a random sideplot involving an alcoholic relative, played by Sarah Silverman, that doesn’t have anything to do with the main plot whatsoever, making it nothing but a hindrance as the audience is struggling to find reasons to care about what’s happening between Lou and Margot.
On the brighter side of things, the performances are actually pretty good. Williams, who was recently nominated for an Oscar for her wonderful performance in My Week with Marilyn, does a great job of playing a woman torn between wanting to be with a new man and not wanting to hurt her husband. Rogen and Kirby do a decent job with their characters, giving it their all, but, like Williams, they aren’t given very much to do with this premise.
When the film does finally come around to concluding its main plot, which is obvious from the start of the film given Polley’s strange decision to show us who Margot is with, you would think that the film would go ahead and end, right? Not so. It drags on for about 15 more minutes, lengthening a film that was already too long in the first place.
Films like this can, and have, worked before, but unfortunately Polley decided to make her take on this story very plain and bland, not doing anything in the way of spicing it up or making it interesting. It’s a rather big disappointment given that her 2006 debut was so well done. We can only hope that she’ll overcome this hurdle and bounce back with a new project to stun audiences once more.