Confused young woman Margot (Michelle Williams) appears happily married to well-meaning Lou (Seth Rogen). However, she finds herself drawn to Daniel (Luke Kirby), an artist who lives across the street. Away From Her director Sarah Polley concocts an emotionally truthful meditation on a marriage running out of steam.
Why does adultery happen? And who is to blame? Is it only infidelity if someone acts or is the betrayal in the yearning itself?
Such difficult questions are tackled - but sensibly left unanswered - by director Sarah Polley in Take This Waltz.
It's a delicate and gorgeously shot film that most of the time feels cleverly nuanced and nonjudgmental and only occasionally verges on a slightly try-hard indie quirkiness that threatens its authenticity.
Michelle Williams is Margot, a wannabe writer married to a chicken cookbook scribe Lou (Seth Rogen). They live, as penniless freelancers do in such films, in an implausibly pretty part of Toronto. Rickshaw driver Daniel (Luke Kirby), a dead ringer for Luke Perry with all that same brooding teen appeal to go with it, lives there too.
When he meet-cutes Margot, their mutual attraction is instant and obvious but she refuses to do anything physical about it because of her husband. And so the two embark on a series of non-dates, laughing and playing and indulging in some highly charged verbal foreplay that highlights the lack of anything going on for Margot at home, with a husband who prefers the stove to sex.
Clearly, Margot's cute girliness is meant to be the mitigating factor that allows us - and Lou - to love and forgive her, but it's more likely to come across as self-indulgent fawning, a kind of manipulative innocence that is irritating more than anything else.
Lou's character development too feels somewhat flawed. While his blindness to the decline of his relationship feels entirely plausible ("I'm just making chicken!" he cries. "You're always making chicken," his wife replies); his saintly acquiescence when he discovers the truth does not.
That said, this is a film that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Margot's angst feels very real, the modern equivalent of the seven year itch perhaps. She and Lou have been married for five years. They are best friends and, outside the bedroom, get along great. But Margot yearns for something, for anything, a desire that latches on to the first solution. As Sarah Silverman, soberly playing a recovering alcoholic sister-in-law, says: "Life has a gap in it, it just does. You don't go round trying to fill it like some moron."
Surprisingly, it is Rogen, putting his comedy chops to one side for a minute, who brings the film stability. Did Margot marry him because of that stability? Because she is, as Luke observes "restless - in a permanent sort of way."
With a slow-burning will-they-won't-they atmosphere reminiscent of Brief Encounter, and electric central performances, this is a film that might not exactly knock you for six while you're watching it. But you won't stop thinking about it for a long time afterwards.