Review of “Look Both Ways,” starring Lili Reinhart, reveals both what is and what may have been.

Look Both Ways, a film by Wanuri Kahiu, depends on possibilities, both literally and figuratively. Look Both Ways dropped on Netflix on August 17, 2022, and featured stars Lili Reinhart, Danny Ramirez, Aisha Dee, David Corenswet, Luke Wilson, and Andrea Savage in crucial roles.

According to the official Look Both Ways summary on Netflix:

“The night before she graduates from college, Natalie’s life splits into two different scenarios: one in which she becomes pregnant and stays in her hometown, and the other in which she doesn’t and relocates to Los Angeles. In both voyages, Natalie rediscovers herself, follows her ideal career as an artist, and encounters love that changes her life.”
Natalie is a 22-year-old college student who is one day from from graduating, and she is portrayed by the blonde Reinhart with blue eyes. She is a student of animation and, like everyone else around her, has a five-year plan. Nat, as everyone affectionately refers to her, dreams of one day owning a production company and creating animated movies. Her goals require a stage, which Los Angeles offers.

Alternate reality is used in Look Both Ways to tell Nat’s story

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Imagine being able to glimpse both the life you had planned and the life you had never imagined.

One woman is the focus of two stories starring Lili Reinhart. August 17 marks the debut of Look Both Ways. 8054 993

To show us what happens in two scenarios, Kahiu introduces a parallel or alternate reality.

In the first, Nat decides to retain the child after discovering she is pregnant after having a sexual relationship with her friend Gabe (played by Ramirez). After the pregnancy test is negative, Nat moves to Los Angeles with her friend Cara (played by Dee) to pursue a profession in animation. This second scenario seems more promising.

Director Kahiu keeps a smooth transition starting from the point where the plot divides into two directions (or tracks). Plot points and temporal leaps are driven by graphic drawings, starting with Nat’s fascination with animation.

For instance, the middle of a page with the doodle “Five Year Plan” is torn out to make place for the alternative “Five Year Motherhood Plan.” Kahiu uses three doodles to represent a growing Rosie (Nat and Gabe’s daughter) rather than cutting between scenes to do so.

Without using scientific jargon or the “Upside Down” notion, Kahiu develops a novel method for presenting an other dimension.

In Parallel Universe 2, Nat falls in love with her coworker Jake (played by Corenswet) and accepts a position working for her hero, while Nat and Gabe are busy learning the ropes of motherhood in Parallel Universe 1. One scene is not presented as reality and the other as a dream in the almost two-hour long movie. Both exist in reality. They simply run into life’s challenges at different times.

Look Both Ways does a fantastic job of capturing this through the dread that social media brings into people’s lives.

When Nat, who is expecting, scrolls through her Instagram and sees her friends starting new careers and living lives she once wished for, she initially feels lost. Nat continues to live the ideal life in parallel, enters a romance, ends it, and gets a job, only to learn that it isn’t everything. In the comedy-drama, both worlds advance until they hit a stopping point.

From there, they start to reconstruct.

The plot of Look Both Ways is driven by colours, clothes, hair, music, and weather

Look Both Ways stars Lili Reinhart and Aisha Dee. (Photo from Twitter – @netflix)
Look Both Ways stars Lili Reinhart and Aisha Dee (Photo via Twitter – @netflix)

The colours, clothing, hairstyles, music, and weather are mostly used to preserve the transition between the two Nats.

With tensions rising due to Gabe’s drumming and people partying harder by the minute, the pregnancy-related build-up prompts a fresh attempt to diffuse the situation. The LA-based Nat is characterised by shorts, noodle-strap tops and dresses in vivid designs, long hair, and, to cap it all off, the backdrop of the California sun.

Nat, who is currently pregnant and has recently returned to live with her parents after her plans took a detour, has everything that is blue, including drapes, sheets, and dumbbells. Her hair is trimmed to her ears, and she wears checkered shorts and monochromatic blouses.

Hats off to director of photography Alan Caudillo for capturing the protagonists’ emotions and the situations they find themselves in.

Characters in Look Both Ways are humanised

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So thrilled to be working with the incredible @lilireinhart and @DavidCorenswet on a movie that honours women and ALL of their OPTIONS! “I’m pro your choice,” says Gab (@DannyRamirez)! 256 74 #LookBothWays @NetflixFilm

The last 30 minutes define Look Both Ways. After recovering, both Nats were able to complete their goals, both emotionally and professionally, five years later.

Motherhood is not shown in Look Both Ways as a barrier to having a job. It also doesn’t exalt the idea of a successful, independent woman. Therefore, Kahiu considers social expectations from a random 22-year-old college graduate when a pregnant Nat confides in her mother that she no longer has a life because she does not draw or visit her friends.

Alternatively, whether a recently unemployed Nat attends her friend’s baby shower or comes upon an Instagram photo of a just married Gabe, Look Both Ways illustrates the worries that come with not having life figured out. In her portrayal of Natalie in both realms, Reinhart is convincing. Both her portrayal of a mother and her posture as a single woman are accomplished.

The sympathetic male characters created by author April Prosser come out as almost ideal feminist supporters. Gabe is noticeably shaken when Nat tells him she’s pregnant, but he continues, “I am pro your choice.” Both Prosser and Kahiu give their supporting characters human traits.

For instance, when Nat tells her parents she is pregnant, they express concern that the development would interfere with their plans to enjoy their lives as well as Nat’s future. However, it would have been interesting to witness the parent-daughter interaction from various angles.

Look Both Ways also discusses such ephemeral wake-up calls to reality. For instance, in the parallel universe, when Nat searches for employment in LA, she discovers that every position is unpaid and observes that one needs to be “wealthy to be an artist.”

There is no option-weighing in Kahiu’s novel Look Both Ways. Instead, it aims to refute the adage “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” popularised by Benjamin Franklin.