Everyone experiences moments in life when they wonder if they made a different decision, which is perhaps what makes the fiction that explores such a narrative so alluring. Netflix’s Look Both Ways tells the story of a young animator named Natalie using this “two paths separate in the yellow forest” method. She has her life planned for the next five years and knows exactly what she wants and when she wants it. We witness the sharing of her life after an impromptu night with her friend Gabe, who urges her to test positive for pregnancy while graduation rages outside. If the test is negative and she is allowed to proceed with her plans, a section of the story focuses on her journey. In the alternate universe, the test is positive, forcing her to abandon her goals and drastically reorganize her life to make room for a child.
You initially think that “Look Both Ways” is going to be more serious than you expected due to its intriguing subject matter. The film comes close to exploring the struggle for choice, especially given that it’s set in Austin, Texas, in the United States after Roe v. Wade fell. An unforeseen pregnancy threatens Natalie’s best plans. However, the film takes a simpler route, paying little attention to Natalie’s dilemma of whether to wait to become a mother. Instead, it sticks to a more straightforward theme that could perfectly support Vienna by Billy Joel.
The film, directed by Wanuri Kahiu, begins with a clear distinction between the two timelines flowing into and out of each other. The novel maintains an authentic tone throughout the first quarter, as Natalie struggles with both motherhood and her absence. Parenting may not be easy, but pursuing your dreams in Los Angeles is not easy either. Surprisingly, the film does a better job of capturing Natalie’s suffering as a childless woman. In terms of his parallel arc, some really fundamental questions about the challenges of parenting are starting to surface. How, for example, can the two 22-year-olds look after a child in addition to themselves without legal employment and recognizable financial burdens? Such things further tear the fabric of this reality, ultimately reducing its severity.
Similarly, “Look Both Ways” doesn’t do its supporting cast justice either. Although a little more nuance to the plot could have added so much more, Natalie’s love interests are reduced to little more than that. Especially with Gabe, we never witness the harshness of fatherhood at such a young age. The film seems more interested in portraying him as this flawless man without acknowledging his legitimate flaws and challenges. The figure of Natalie’s best friend is similarly unfinished. All of this could have added depth to the storyline, but it’s only a hypothetical possibility.
In Natalie’s case, the main conflict builds well in the beginning, but dies down towards the end, reducing the power of the message. Lili Reinhart does an excellent job of juggling her character’s double life on her side. She gives weight to the moments of Natalie’s disappointments, failures and final acceptance of her fate. Warm colors for LA and blue for Natalie’s hometown balance the film’s aesthetic. To create a flow where the stories eventually converge to that final moment and give the audience a complete picture of just how far Natalie has come from where she was at a crossroads that night of graduation, the remaining Distinguished by the hairstyle and the type of clothing.
The heart of “Look Both Ways” is in the right place. It’s a lukewarmly sentimental film that may soften, but not completely, your view of the notion that everything turns out fine in the end. It could have been a lot worse than it actually was. It could have gone in a different direction and ended differently. But when you take all of that into account, the message of the film is actually given more support. Even if you imagine a thousand different scenarios, your life will still take its own course and upset any carefully laid plans. Therefore, “Look Both Ways” proves that the other option is “just as fair”, even if implemented somewhat laxly.