Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Look Both Ways

There's nothing especially wrong with Sarah Watt's Aussie drama Look Both Ways, except that it's too deep in the vein of wispy indie films with good hearts and soft heads. This is another one of those multi-character, "everything's connected" life studies, following a group of middle-aged professionals as they undergo varied existential crises over a long weekend. In the wake of a train accident, a photographer (played by William McInnes) takes a memorable shot of a victim's distraught wife, while simultaneously dwelling on a recent diagnosis of testicular cancer. His reporter friend Anthony Hayes writes up the train story, even as he's thinking about the ex-girlfriend he just got pregnant. And Hayes gets the story with the help of witness Justine Clarke, an artist whose father has just died, prompting her to imagine all the horrible ways that people can take their leave of the world.


Those fantasy sequences are Look Both Ways' most distinctive feature. Watt deploys her skills as a painter and an animator to insert darkly witty drawings of people getting killed by psychos or eaten by sharks. Elsewhere, she plays it safer, limiting her characters' interior lives to a pat set of fatherhood issues and commitment phobias. If Look Both Ways seems amiably familiar, that's mainly because it piggybacks on the whimsy and pop-pathos of arthouse auteurs like Jean-Pierre Jeunet (whose Amélie gets a nod in multiple scenes of flighty speculation, set to rapid-fire montages) and P.T. Anderson (in that the movie stops more than once for cross-character montages set to yearning ballads). Viewers who haven't become exhausted with this style yet might find a lot to like here, and undoubtedly Watt has a bright enough visual sense to sell a warmed-over story about people struggling with loneliness and fear. The final scene is especially moving, paying off Watt's stylistic quirks in one moment of real poignancy. But too much of Look Both Ways is blocky and obvious, designed to fit neatly into an argument for human companionship. After the first hour, it's clear the movie isn't going to offer any surprising new insights into messed-up modernity. For those charting at home: "stick it out" and "love conquers all" appear to be the bullet points.

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