Look Both Ways review: Netflix’s multiverse fantasy has a puzzling message

Look Both Ways review: Netflix’s multiverse fantasy has a puzzling message

If nothing else, the new Netflix production look both ways gives the groundhog day Formulate a much-needed break. For a while, a GroundhogThe time-cycle-like setting was the gateway device for applying a slight sense of the fantastical to stories about choice, destiny, and relationships. There seemed to be at least one time loop movie for each streaming service: Palm Springs, The map of the perfect little things, boss level, Nakedand so. look both ways instead, it borrows from 1987 blind chance, a film by Krzysztof Kieślowski in which a young man who catches or misses a train creates parallel timelines with very different lives. (It was restyled in the US as Gwyneth Paltrow’s vehicle from 1998 Sliding doors.) The branching incident for look both ways It’s not a train, though: It’s the result of a prom season hookup between college friends Natalie (Lili Reinhart) and Gabe (Danny Ramirez).

When Natalie feels sick on prom night, she takes a pregnancy test. In one timeline, she is a false alarm, continuing with her “five year plan”, which is to move to Los Angeles with her best friend Cara (Aisha Dee) and pursue her dream of becoming a professional cheerleader. . In the other, Natalie is pregnant and moves to Texas to live with her parents (Andrea Savage and Luke Wilson), and she launches into co-parenting with a close (but not exactly romantically involved) Gabe.

Like other “what if this happened differently?” thought experiment movies, look both ways it is an opportunity to explore the vagaries of life choices, both major and minor. But this film skims the surface of those choices, philosophizing with all the energy, vigor and intelligence of a tasteless romantic comedy. Or rather, two flavorless rom-coms: one has Natalie doing a heartfelt, charmless “will they end up together or not?” with Gabe, the drummer of what appears to be a Fun cover band. Her other one draws her to her fellow LA movie professional, Jake (David Corenswet).

Cara (Aisha Dee) and Natalie (Lili Reinhart) sit together in the bathroom in Look Both Ways.

Photo: Felicia Graham/Netflix

Director Wanuri Kahiu introduces a visual innovation for the cinematic formula of two divergent paths: she cuts the two timelines together quickly, speeding up the usual structure of alternating segments. From time to time, she lets the images overlap, creating a kind of temporary split screen. Increase the frequency of jumps between loan timelines look both ways a fast pace and a bit of rhythmic unpredictability. The latter is something that the film’s script unfortunately lacks.

Both stories are mildly compelling in a soap opera style, but the scenes in April Prosser’s script often feel like reactions, rather than dramatizations. Some plot happens, then the characters talk at length about how she made them feel. It’s narrative like a particularly shallow therapy session. At the center of all this solipsistic restlessness, Reinhart is having trouble selling any side of Natalie. Both the creative entrepreneur needing to overcome disappointment and the harried mother trying to maintain a semblance of her former self have an overly emphatic, plastically brilliant quality, lacking even the expressive cartoonishness of their work in the most ridiculously heightened atmosphere of Riverdale.

More disconcerting is the growing suspicion that the filmmakers think they’re tackling some difficult but relatable topics, like building those whimsically illustrated five-year plans that seem to exist mostly in movies about people who plan too much. The film’s tenderness borders on insult each time it comes up against more difficult decisions. Of course, it probably doesn’t make sense to complain that movies don’t give abortion full consideration when pregnancy is the driving force behind the story. If one version of Natalie ends up with her pregnancy, there is no obvious catalyst for her divergent destinies.

But it’s worth noting how weak-willed look both ways is when it comes to explaining why, exactly, Natalie decides to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term at age 22 and commit to full-time motherhood, seemingly against her own plans and wishes. The film is too squeamish for Natalie to express any explicitly pro-life beliefs, or even to mention the word “abortion.” Say what you will about movies like June being misconstrued as anti-abortion, at least she has the guts to say the word out loud. In an era where the right to abortion is being actively removed by law, the claim that terminating a pregnancy isn’t even an option worth considering or discussing feels like exactly the wrong message at the moment.

Gabe (Danny Ramirez) takes a pregnant Natalie (Lili Reinhart) to the hospital in a wheelchair, while her parents Rick (Luke Wilson) and Tina (Andrea Savage) run alongside them in Look Both Ways.

Photo: Felicia Graham/Netflix

So Natalie shrugs through a life-changing event, saying things like “This is what was supposed to happen,” so she can have some later scenes where she talks about being tired and worried. , or pay lip service to the joys of parenthood. And the movie pays no more attention to that fatherhood once it actually exists. Her son is treated as a plot device that is ultimately of no more consequence than if he chose a particular job or a particular roommate.

Ultimately, that may be the strange, empty point of the film: Natalie is the same person in these two divergent multiverses, equally capable of taking different paths and overcoming different obstacles, to achieve different forms of personal fulfillment. The most pessimistic side of movies like Sliding doors either melinda and melinda it is softened in an attempt to erase any sense of dichotomy between the two paths ahead of Natalie. The resulting message, however, is shallow feel-good fluff: “Young or childless mom, couple or single, dream job or hustle, everything is more or less interchangeable on this crazy journey we’re on.”

look both ways it has nothing significant to say about any of the issues it is supposed to address. Even when the filmmakers get the little details right (Natalie’s animation references are spot on and very convincing), the film plays the friend who stands by his audience, pats them on the back, and talks about how everything happens for a reason. , and it’s all going to be great. Then, a few minutes later, he gets back to the important part: endlessly talking about himself.

look both ways is streaming on Netflix now.

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