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Look Both Ways (Netflix) Film Review

Look Both Ways is a fun comedy drama that is sometimes clunky but ultimately endearing in its message of ‘life is what you make it’.

“What if?” The eternal conundrum. It’s something we’ve all probably asked ourselves at least once, as we miss that train by mere seconds or decline an invitation somewhere. Marvel even made an entire Disney+ series on it. And it’s this question that is at the centre of Wanuri Kahiu’s Look Both Ways, a film that tells two versions of a life and highlights how two different paths can still lead to the same happiness. It might just look a little different.

Natalie (Lili Reinhart), on the night of her college graduation, takes a pregnancy test and the result diverges her life into two parallels. One, in which she’s not pregnant, where she moves to LA to pursue her dream of becoming an animator. And the other, in which she is, where she moves back to her Texas hometown to become a mom.

There’s a derivative reading of this film that boils down to, essentially, ‘baby’ versus ‘career’. But Kahiu’s film is more mature than that, and explores the idea that your future is not necessarily what you envision it, it’s the way in which we navigate the path that matters. In simpler terms, life is what you make it. Pregnant Natalie mourns the loss of a life in LA, but realises how being a mom has changed her and her priorities. Not-pregnant Natalie mourns the fact that her five-year-plan eventually crumbles, but takes the setbacks as an opportunity to find her own voice. Look Both Ways isn’t too concerned with idea of fate, as in something like Peter Howitt’s Sliding Doors. Instead its message is that we make ourselves happy, and the ideal future can look different for different versions of ourselves.

loud and clear reviews Look Both Ways 2022 netflix film
L to R: Danny Ramirez as Gabe and Lili Reinhart as Natalie in Look Both Ways. (Felicia Graham/Netflix © 2022)

Yes it’s a little bit cheesy, but there’s a charm to Look Both Ways that means its introspective nature doesn’t become too much. It doesn’t labour its point, just lets both versions of Natalie navigate their lives and come to the realisations on their own. Reinhart is great in what is essentially a dual role, imbuing both Natalies with a sense of something missing, which then becomes a contented glow by the film’s conclusion as she finds it. It teeters on the edge of stereotypical – of course ‘mom’ Natalie is the one is duller colours, with a bob haircut and frumpier dresses – but the film swings itself back around just enough that it isn’t too distracting. Reinhart gives a subtle performance – or, perhaps more accurately, performances – and she adds warmth and believability to a character that isn’t perfect but is always engaging.

However, because there are two separate Natalies on screen, it does mean the film struggles a bit with its supporting cast. Danny Ramirez, as baby daddy Gabe, and David Corenswet, as aspiring producer Jake, get the most to do as the love interest of each respective Natalie, but aren’t given much of the emotional heavy lifting. Andrea Savage and Luke Wilson as Natalie’s parents, and even Aisha Dee (Sissy) as her best friend, get short-shifted with material, and don’t really become much more than one-note characters and sounding boards for Natalie in each parallel. And it’s a bit of a shame, as the film could have explored the differences in Natalie’s relationships with all of them in each version of her life, not just the relationship with herself, and added more complexity to the film’s central idea.

But, ultimately, Look Both Ways is a light, intimate story about how one little plastic stick can change the entire course of a future. It’s fun and sweet, if sometimes clunky, with a solid central performance and a nice message about how, really, everything will be okay. You’ve got this and you’ll get there. Every version of you.

Look Both Ways is now available to watch globally on Netflix.

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