I love it when a good high concept gets transplanted to a teen or young adult movie. With Look Both Ways, we have the Sliding Doors scenario, but starring a young woman on the cusp of adulthood. Natalie (Lili Reinhart) is an aspiring animator about to graduate college when she hooks up with her best friend, Gabe (Danny Ramirez). A few weeks later at a graduation party, she takes a pregnancy test, and the film splits into two timelines: one where the test comes back positive, once where it comes back negative.
Thus, we follow Natalie in her parallel timelines: one as a struggling animation artist in LA, one as a young mom. It makes for a busy film, of course, and a fairly complex one, too. Each timeline has its own full narrative that mirrors the other in various ways. Both also have independent romantic arcs for Natalie. The film does a good job balancing both stories (tilted perhaps slightly to the timeline where she’s a mom), and, crucially, flows seamlessly between the two with immediate clarity on which story we are watching.
Look Both Ways really clicked for me. It does a good job fleshing out its central thesis — that the grass is always greener on the other side, that fulfillment and creatively satisfying lives can be found in all calls of life — without hammering too hard on the nose of the theme. It’s brisk and fun, with a good balance of scenes that have room to breathe but never dawdle.
It helps that Lili Reinhart is an absolute revelation in Look Both Ways. Beautiful, dynamic, and funny, she has more charisma than the rest of her Riverdale leads combined. I hope this movie (which she also produced) sets her up to be a star in more prominent movies. I’d love to see what she brings to something with a bit more of a dramatic heft to it.
The flip side of the film’s satisfying double narrative is that both timelines cut some corners to get to through their stories within a reasonable runtime. This is particularly true of the romantic subplots. The timeline where Natalie is a mom, especially, skips over about three beats of the romcom story format with a couple of lines of dialog to get to the happy ending.
David Corenswet, a hunky fellow, plays the romantic lead in the LA animator timeline. He’s adequate, but Ramirez is easily the stronger of the two love interests. Ramirez and Reinhart have terrific chemistry, and he brings out a certain confused but selfless zeal for fatherhood that I found moving. (I’m a total sucker for good dads in movies.)
The movie has a lot of goofy quirks. For example, Gabe is a drummer in a band that apparently only plays one song, which is a mediocre cover of “We Are Young” by Fun. Why this song is the recurring motif in a 2022 film, I have no idea. It verges into (presumably unintentional) comedy the third time we hear it. Ramirez also has a porn star mustache in one of the timelines, which is a helpful visual cue.
It’s not quite so polished or thought-provoking as to ever ascend to greatness, but as far as diverting and delightful YA films goes, it’s one of the year’s better entries.
- Review Project: 2022: Year in Film