Look Both Ways, the newest romantic comedy-drama streaming on Netflix, takes a similar approach as 1998’s Sliding Doors.
The approach that the film takes is not new. While it reminds viewers of Sliding Doors, the earlier film wasn’t the first to do it either. The term actually dates back to 1932. But in any event, this film takes a heartwarming approach while having a lot of commentary on filmmaking and artistry in general. Finding one’s voice is important in this industry and it’s something that the film dives into as we get deeper into its almost 2-hour run time.
Look Both Ways diverges from the moment on graduating from the University of Texas that Natalie (Lili Reinhart) takes a pregnancy test with best friend Cara (Aisha Dee) accompanying her in the bathroom. In one storyline, the test is negative and they move to Los Angeles together. The other storyline sees Natalie test positive and move back home with her parents, Rick (Luke Wilson) and Tina (Andrea Savage) in Texas, and subsequently struggle to co-parent daughter Rosie with Gabe (Danny Ramirez).
In the storyline where Natalie moves to LA, she gets a job working for Lucy Galloway (Nia Long) at Tall Story Animation. But before she even starts working for Lucy, Natalie meets Jake (David Corenswet) at a party. The two creatives hit it off and eventually enter into a long-term relationship. They’re about to move in with each other until Jake’s career takes him to Nova Scotia for a year. With one Tall Story project over, Lucy finally has time to look over Natalie’s portfolio. It doesn’t go so well as Natalie learns that she needs to find her own voice. This may be a hard lesson but Natalie ends up making a short film and enters it into SXSW. Her film gets accepted by the festival and plays at the Paramount or State.
In both storylines, Natalie ends up at SXSW. In the storyline where she gets pregnant and starts the Night Owl web comic, she is on a panel with Lucy Galloway. When fate wants something to happen, it is going to happen no matter what. Both of the realities converge at the end right at the same sorority house where the film started. In terms of the film itself, there is so much happening between the two storylines. April Prosser’s script switches back and forth too much for my liking. Right when you’re enjoying where one storyline is going, the film switches right over to the next!
One note about the SXSW short film. It’s highly unlikely that her short film would play at the Paramount or Stateside theatres in real life. In looking over this year’s film schedule, the short film programs only played at the Alamo Drafthouse, Austin Convention Center, and Rollins Theatre venues. Aside from this aspect, Look Both Ways perfectly captures the SXSW atmosphere in Austin. It’s possible that her panel would have had a larger audience and maybe have been in a larger room but I don’t know.
Cinephiles will almost certainly appreciate what this film has to say about live-action remakes of animated films. Natalie goes off on Jake as soon as he suggests a live-action remake of Spirited Away. As I’m watching this happen on my screen, I’m silently applauding Natalie for standing up for what she believes in. Listen, the Disney remakes were fun there for a few years but the films just do not have the same magic. At this point, Disney is just making them for Disney+, much less box office revenue. Moreover, it’s highly unlikely that Hayao Miyazaki would ever allow a live-action remake of the Oscar-winning film. The closest that we’re getting to live-action is a stage adaptation. But I digress.
It isn’t lost on me that this film is set in Texas, where women are losing rights left and right. It’s not unfair to think that, in another state, Natalie might undergo an abortion before moving to LA. Another filmmaker might explore the abortion aspect but it’s not one that is even discussed in this film…because Texas. Is there a storyline where Natalie has a positive pregnancy test and ends up getting an abortion before moving to LA? Who knows.
Despite taking a similar approach as Sliding Doors, Look Both Ways still manages to charm.
DIRECTOR: Wanuri Kahiu
SCREENWRITER: April Prosser
CAST: Lili Reinhart, Danny Ramirez, David Corenswet, Aisha Dee, with Andrea Savage, Luke Wilson, and Nia Long
Netflix released Look Both Ways on August 19, 2022. Grade: 3.5/5
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