Look Both Ways, the newest Netflix original film, follows a young lady who finds herself at a crossroads with two distinct lives unfolding in front of her. This idea has undoubtedly been explored in a variety of media, and for good cause. Imagining all the ways a person can be impacted by particular situations or choices is an alluring thought. Wanuri Kahiu’s film Look Both Ways, which he also directed, doesn’t fully explore this concept. Look Both Ways struggles to leave a lasting impression with either of its competing timelines, despite the best efforts of its leading woman Lili Reinhart.
A prospective life change prevents aspiring animator Natalie (Reinhart) from moving to Los Angeles after she graduates from college. She may have been pregnant as a result of a recent, careless liaison with her good friend Gabe (Danny Ramirez). Two routes then open up from there. In one, Natalie gives up her life in Los Angeles while pregnant to raise her child with Gabe in Texas. In the other, motherhood isn’t in the cards, so she and BFF Cara can immediately begin their careers (Aisha Dee). It becomes evident as both Natalies go through their lives that some things are truly meant to be, regardless of the events that led up to them.
From an April Prosser script, Kahiu begins Look Both Ways with a few clever ploys. Kahiu juxtaposes the two iterations of Reinhart’s character as Natalie’s crucial bathroom scene unfolds in order to effectively illustrate the impact of the pregnancy (or lack thereof). It has an impact when the camera pans across the room from a happy celebration to a sombre reality. Kahiu continues this from that point on with varying glimpses of Natalie leaving college behind, occasionally interwoven with animation. Brad Leach, the editor, skillfully transitions from the lighter pictures of Natalie leaving for LA with Cara and the more sombre scene of her travelling the other way with Gabe. It might be important to note that Look Both Ways has a somewhat awkward opening. Look is the first film directed by Kahiu from a script by April Prosser. Although Natalie’s unexpected pregnancy does eventually tip the scales in favour of her, both perspectives are terrible.
But when the film settles into its two distinct rhythms, the novelty fades. The plot lacks urgency, which could be due to either sluggish pacing or straightforward staging. Each of Natalie’s two excursions feels like it was forced upon her rather than being an essential part of the narrative. Each narrative’s trajectory is predictable as well, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because a well-told known story may be satisfying. Look Both Ways, on the other hand, has a definite feeling of squandered opportunity. Natalie’s conflicting lifestyles as a mother and someone with a (allegedly) arduous job may have been utilised by Kahiu and Prosser to put the character in unusual situations. However, Natalie still seems pretty one-note, and the supporting cast characters in her immediate vicinity are significantly less clear.
That has nothing to do with the cast’s shortcomings. Reinhart, who is most known for portraying Betty Cooper on The CW’s Riverdale, expertly transitions between both personas as Natalie. Reinhart manages Natalie’s every element with ease, whether Natalie is sobbing on the couch because she is stressed out from having so many obligations placed on her as a mother or tenaciously working through a creative setback. Ramirez gives Gabe a genuine sincerity that makes him likeable, and Dee plays Cara with a deliciously engaging charm (though one really wishes she had gotten more to do). Andrea Savage and Luke Wilson make for equally loving and amusing parents for Natalie, while David Corenswet does a good job as Natalie’s love interest-turned-coworker. Lastly, Nia Long plays Natalie’s tutor Lucy in a charming role. To give their characters dimension, the majority of supporting performers must put in extra effort.
Although Look Both Ways has its charms, everything ultimately turns out as one would anticipate. The movie lacks some of the happiness that often comes from a slice-of-life story like this since a certain element of excitement is lacking. Natalie’s story may provide some solace to those who prefer straightforward, humorous films, and with Reinhart at its centre, it is certain to appeal to a wide audience. However, hardly much in Look Both Ways is likely to stay with viewers long after the final credits have rolled.
As of August 17, Look Both Ways is available on Netflix to view. The 111-minute movie has a TV-14 rating for profanity, sexual references, and substance use.