‘Look Both Ways’ (2022) Review: Dual Timelines Examines Womanhood

Wanuri Kahiu’s Look Both Ways splits the life of twenty-something, fresh-out-of-college Natalie (Lili Reinhart) and examines a ‘what if’ situation where she ends up with two different realities. There is never a right path, and the movie presents two perspectives of a young woman embracing life or taking risks. It’s a grounded movie that delves into the themes of relationships, motherhood, postpartum depression, struggling to find a job after college, and the difficulties of balancing a love life and a career. Look Both Ways explores the alternative realities of Natalie’s choice: become a mother or focus on her career.

Natalie, the soon-to-be college graduate, has a five-year plan that she knows is going to be a success. She plans to move to Los Angeles and work for the company run by her idol and a successful character designer, Lucy (Nia Long). Everything is set and nothing could go wrong, or so she thinks. Her plan backfires when she hooks up with her friend Gabe (Danny Ramirez) and finds herself puking and taking a pregnancy test on the night of her graduation party. Before she gets her results, she imagines herself splitting into two realities, one where she raises a child and the other following her perfect five-year plan.

In the reality where she doesn’t get pregnant, she moves to Los Angeles with her best friend Cara (Aisha Dee) and sets out to achieve her five-year plan as an animator. She meets Jake (David Corenswet), who works at the same company as Lucy, and with a little bit of encouragement, he helps her to get a job as her assistant. Whereas in the other alternative reality, Natalie’s pregnancy test is positive and she moves back in with her parents (Luke Wilson and Andrea Savage), who are shocked by the news. Gabe and Natalie decide to have the baby, not as a couple but as friends, and she refuses his marriage proposal. She decides to put her five-year plan behind to take care of her child, while Gabe tours around the world with his band. Her life is far from perfect, and she ruins her friendships and potential relationships to focus completely on motherhood, but there are problems in both timelines that complicates her career.

Look Both Ways shows Natalie’s growth despite the perils of motherhood and a career that leads her nowhere. One problem that the story shows is her friendship with Cara and how Natalie treats her. In this timeline, there isn’t an emotional connection that shows how their friendship has grown and suffered due to Natalie’s commitment to motherhood. It is a disservice to Cara’s purpose in the story, and even the lack of conflict between these characters is extended to Gabe and Jake. These minor narrative issues hold the movie back from exploring well-deserved emotional connections.

Natalie’s relationships with Gabe and Jake consist of problems that are full of one inconvenience after another. It’s frustrating to watch Natalie dodge a potential relationship with Gabe, despite both of them being in a healthy, co-parenting agreement, due to her fear of commitment. They don’t share any financial burdens and don’t involve their romantic feelings while looking after their child. While Look Both Ways looks at Natalie’s choices, the movie suggests that her happiness depends on Gabe and Jake coming back into her life. Even when her paths are split into two different realities and her dreams are complete, she ends up doing okay. That’s the predictable lesson that the movie teaches at the end of it.

Even though these issues are present with Look Both Ways, it discusses universal problems women face. The movie tackles postpartum depression, motherhood, and losing people that they love along the way. It is a charming yet realistic portrayal of life. Five-year plans are not proven to be successful. Everyone faces highs and lows in their career, but what matters is what they plan to do with it.

Look Both Ways has a meaningful ending, despite the not-so-feminist message. Reinhart’s performance is filled with vulnerability and presents a strong presence alone or paired with the supporting cast. She delivers witty lines combined with lightheartedness. Everything about the movie is romanticised and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It manages to tackle real-life issues in an approachable and safe way with a smart and lighthearted conclusion.

Look Both Ways is currently streaming on Netflix.

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