If nothing else, the brand new Netflix manufacturing Look Both Ways offers the Groundhog Day system a much-needed break. For some time, a Groundhog-like time-loop state of affairs was the go-to gadget for making use of a lightweight sense of the fantastical to tales about selections, destiny, and relationships. There appeared to be a minimum of one time-loop film for every streaming service: Palm Springs, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, Boss Level, Naked, and so forth. Look Both Ways as an alternative borrows from 1987’s Blind Chance, a Krzysztof Kieślowski film the place a younger man catching or lacking a practice creates parallel timelines with very totally different lives. (It was reenvisioned in America because the 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow automobile Sliding Doors.) The branching incident for Look Both Ways isn’t a practice, although: It’s the end result of a graduation-season hookup between school mates Natalie (Lili Reinhart) and Gabe (Danny Ramirez).
When Natalie feels sick on commencement evening, she takes a being pregnant check. In one timeline, it’s a false alarm, and he or she proceeds along with her “five-year plan,” which includes shifting to Los Angeles along with her bestie Cara (Aisha Dee) and pursuing her dream of turning into knowledgeable animator. In the opposite, Natalie is pregnant, and he or she strikes to Texas to stay along with her dad and mom (Andrea Savage and Luke Wilson), throwing herself into co-parenting with a close-by (however not precisely romantically concerned) Gabe.
Like different “what if this happened differently” thought-experiment films, Look Both Ways is a chance to discover the vagaries of life selections each main and minor. But this movie skims throughout the floor of these selections, philosophizing with all of the zip, vigor, and intelligence of a flavorless rom-com. Or moderately, two flavorless rom-coms: One has Natalie doing a honest and charmless “will they end up together or won’t they” with Gabe, the drummer in what seems to be a Fun cowl band. The different has her drawn to fellow Los Angeles film-world skilled Jake (David Corenswet).
Director Wanuri Kahiu does give you a visible innovation for the two-roads-diverged movie system: She cuts the 2 timelines collectively rapidly, dashing up the same old alternating-segments construction. Occasionally, she lets photographs overlay, making a type of temporal split-screen. Increasing the frequency of the jumps between timelines lends Look Both Ways a fast tempo and a little bit of rhythmic unpredictability. The latter is one thing the film’s script grievously lacks.
Both storylines are mildly compelling in a cleaning soap opera type of approach, however the scenes in April Prosser’s screenplay usually really feel like reactions, moderately than dramatizations. Some plot occurs, then characters discuss extensively about the way it made them really feel. It’s narrative as a very shallow remedy session. At the middle of all this solipsistic fretting, Reinhart has hassle promoting both facet of Natalie. Both the inventive go-getter who must push herself previous disappointment and the harried mother making an attempt to keep up a semblance of her previous self have an overemphatic, shiny-plastic high quality, missing even the expressive cartoonishness of her work within the extra ridiculously heightened ambiance of Riverdale.
More discomfiting is the rising suspicion that the filmmakers suppose they’re tackling some powerful but relatable points, like the development of these whimsically illustrated five-year plans that appear to exist primarily in films about individuals who plan an excessive amount of. The film’s cutesiness borders on insulting every time it blunders into more durable selections. Granted, it’s most likely pointless to complain about films not giving full consideration to abortion when being pregnant is supposed because the story engine. If one model of Natalie ends her being pregnant, there isn’t an apparent catalyst for her divergent fates.
But it’s price declaring simply how weak-willed Look Both Ways is on the subject of explaining why, precisely, Natalie decides to hold an unplanned being pregnant to time period at 22 and decide to full-time mothering, seemingly in opposition to her personal plans and needs. The film is just too squeamish to have Natalie specific any explicitly pro-life beliefs, or to even point out the phrase “abortion.” Say what you’ll about movies like Juno being misinterpreted as anti-abortion — a minimum of it has the heart to say the phrase out loud. In an period the place abortion rights are being actively legislated away, the pretense that terminating a being pregnant isn’t even an possibility price contemplating or discussing appears like precisely the incorrect message for the second.
So Natalie shrugs her approach via a life-altering occasion, saying issues like “This is what was supposed to happen,” so she will be able to have some later scenes the place she talks about being drained and apprehensive, or pay some lip service to the thrill of parenthood. And the film is not any extra attentive towards that parenthood as soon as it truly exists. Her little one is handled as a plot gadget that’s finally no extra consequential than if she selected a selected job, or a selected roommate.
That could finally be the film’s unusual, hole level: Natalie is similar individual in each of those divergent multiverses, equally able to taking totally different paths and overcoming totally different obstacles, to attain totally different types of private satisfaction. The extra downbeat facet of flicks like Sliding Doors or Melinda and Melinda is smoothed over in an try to erase any sense of dichotomy between the 2 roads forward of Natalie. The ensuing message, although, is shallow feel-good fluff: “Childless or young mom, coupled or singleton, dream job or side hustle, it’s all more or less interchangeable on this crazy journey we find ourselves on!”
Look Both Ways has nothing significant to say about any of the themes it’s supposedly addressing. Even when the filmmakers get little particulars proper (Natalie’s animation references are spot-on and really convincing), the film is taking part in the supportive buddy to its viewers, patting viewers on the again and speaking about how every part occurs for a motive, and it’ll all end up nice. Then, a couple of minutes later, it will get again to the necessary half: speaking endlessly about itself.
Look Both Ways is streaming on Netflix now.