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Lightweight ‘Look Both Ways’ worth a look

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I’ve always had a soft spot for sliding doors. Maybe it’s because I’m the sort of person predisposed to wondering “what if?” and fascinated by the notion of one point of divergence altering a life – a world – moving forward. It doesn’t always work (although in truth, what does?), but it almost always holds my attention.

“Look Both Ways,” currently streaming on Netflix, is a recent addition to the sliding doors canon. It’s a relatively light and breezy take on the trope, even as its divergence point – pregnant/not pregnant – is perhaps a bit more charged than you might expect, though the film itself isn’t all that interested in addressing that charged nature.

With a charming, albeit somewhat bland, cast and a more or less constant levity, this film is well-made, with some solid visual representations of the split timelines, and it’s got some laughs. Put it all together and you wind up with a perfectly pleasant way to while away a couple of hours.

Natalie (Lili Reinhart) is a college senior, on the verge of graduating from the University of Texas. She’s an aspiring animator, a hard worker with a five-year plan. She and her best friend Cara (Aisha Dee) are going to move to Los Angeles right after they graduate, ready to take the town by storm. In a rare moment of spontaneity, she decides to hook up with her classmate Gabe (Danny Ramirez); they’re just friends, but sometimes things happen.

And sometimes … they don’t.

At a party the night of graduation, Cara finds Natalie throwing up in the bathroom. The consensus is that gas station sushi is the cause, but Cara brings pregnancy tests with her. Natalie and Gabe used a condom, but you never know.

Point of divergence.

On one side of the split, we see Natalie get a negative result and head back to the party and subsequently to L.A. to pursue her dream career. On the other, we see a positive result that leads to Natalie deciding to have the baby and returning home and moving back in with her parents Tina (Andrea Savage) and Rick (Luke Wilson).

From there, these two realities play out in parallel. Natalie gets to L.A. and manages to land a job as the assistant to Lucy (Nia Long), one of her animation idols. She also meets Jake (David Corenswet), an aspiring producer with whom she quickly forms a romantic connection. Natalie ALSO struggles through pregnancy and early motherhood; while Gabe is very much present and tries to do what he believes to be the right thing, there’s little in the way of romance.

Each version of Natalie struggles with ups and downs as she navigates the specifics of her bifurcated circumstances and tries to make her way toward the best version of that life, learning along the way that success is largely about perspective.

“Look Both Ways” is not a challenging movie. It is a sweet and very simple take on a familiar trope. You will see very little here that surprises you; everything that happens is the thing that you expect to happen. From beat to beat, you will be fully aware of what is coming.

And that’s OK. This is not a film that intends to be anything other than a light and frothy entertainment. In that respect, it is fairly successful, leaning heavily on the basic charms of its cast to present a very palatable version of a formula we’ve all seen before. It’s fine. You likely won’t remember much beyond the basic premise, but it’s fine. In the moment, you’ll have a decent time.

Actually, that’s a bit unfair. I do think that “Look Both Ways” does a rather good job of visually representing the split timelines in moments where both Natalies are in the same physical space at a given moment. We don’t often see multiple Natalies on screen, but when we do, director Wanuri Kahiu does solid work in offering the juxtaposed similarities and differences.

Lili Reinhart – best known for her work on TV’s “Riverdale” – is quite good here. The differences between the two Natalies aren’t drastic, but in a way, that makes her job more difficult, forcing her to find subtler ways to differentiate between the two (beyond stuff like hairstyles). For the most part, she’s successful; while the two are obviously more similar than different, Reinhart mostly manages to keep the lines from blurring.

As for the rest of the cast, we get a couple of solid boyfriend/co-parent turns from Corenswet and Ramirez, respectively – both prove very likeable, even when the story occasionally steers them astray – and some good BFF work from Dee. Savage and Wilson are pros, as is Nia Long; their work provides a nice sense of stability throughout, though none of them are given a whole lot to do.

“Look Both Ways” was fun, a frothy, breezy rom-com with a bit of a twist. Again, nothing to write home about, but if you’re in the mood for something lightweight that goes down easy, then “Look Both Ways” is worth a look.

[3 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 22 August 2022 07:47

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