Tuesday 6 September 2022

Movie Review: Look Both Ways (2022)

An alternate reality romantic comedy, Look Both Ways seeks the sweet spot of empowerment from two different directions.

In Austin, university student and aspiring animation artist Natalie (Lili Reinhart) has a night of no-commitment sex with her friend Gabe (Danny Ramirez), a rock band drummer. Weeks later she feels sick and takes a pregnancy test. The narrative then diverges into two scenarios.

The pregnancy storyline finds Natalie and Gabe moving in with her parents Rick and Tina (Luke Wilson and Andrea Savage). Baby Rosie is born, Gabe is an ideal dad, but the couple suffer from exhaustion and eventually have a falling out. Natalie has to find the time and space to regain her composure and pursue a career as a working mom.

The not pregnant plot has Natalie and her best friend Cara (Aisha Dee) moving to Los Angeles, where Natalie meets Jake (David Corenswet) and lands an assistant position in the studio of celebrated animation artist Lucy Galloway (Nia Long). But Natalie's talents are overlooked, while her burgeoning romance with Jake is interrupted when he pursues his own dreams as a documentary film producer.

Eyes wide open, Look Both Ways wades into the the motherhood versus career debate with a deft touch and a deliberate agenda: in either case, nothing will go as planned, and that's okay. April Prosser's script takes Natalie on parallel journeys reminiscent of Sliding Doors, director Wanuri Kahiu cleverly navigates two realities, and the juxtaposition lands just on the right side of manageable, although some trimming of the 110 minutes would have been welcome.

Neither scenario goes looking for anything exceptional, and this is a good thing. Motherhood is full of challenges, but also immense fulfilment and inspiration. Landing what seems to be a dream job is not a guarantee of anything. Natalie's relationships with Gabe and Jake are both adult-like, and Prosser steers well clear of the silly misunderstandings that clutter rom-coms. Instead Natalie and her two men make conscious decisions with consequences: she encourages Gabe to start dating other women; Jake pursues his career dream. The resultant separations properly test the would-be lovers.

In the central role, Lili Reinhart adds plenty of charisma as Natalie, and finds the right emotions whether accepting twists of fate, coming to terms with mistakes, or instigating change. The more comic notes come from Luke Wilson and Andrea Savage as her parents, while Aisha Dee is a refreshingly forceful and independent friend.

Look Both Ways finds a poignant merge point for Natalie five years after that fateful pregnancy test. In this genre the resolutions may be predetermined, but at least the journey can take any number of adventurous routes.

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