Look Both Ways is Netflix’s newest romance drama that almost reaches a touching originality, but eventually surrenders to Hollywood cheese. It’s an improvement though, from some of the other recent releases Netflix has had. Coming off the high of finally graduating, college kids face an open door filled with endless possibilities of following dreams and accomplishing goals. This movie explores the “what ifs” of following two opposite paths – what would happen if something got in the way of your dreams? In this case, it’s a girl’s worst nightmare: unplanned pregnancy.
The movie follows Natalie Bennet, played by Lili Reinhart, as she ends her graduation night in a washroom fearfully awaiting her pregnancy test results (hidden message of the movie: always practice safe sex). The storyline begins to diverge right at this moment as we enter two different universes: one where Natalie is pregnant and stays in Texas, and one where the results are negative and she moves to L.A. to pursue her dreams of becoming an animator.
While it’s an interesting approach in storytelling, I felt like it could’ve been better executed. There were times where I was confused as to which story was being told and had to wait a couple minutes before key differences clued me in. I also didn’t like how there was no way the audience could tell how much time had passed. How many years of her life are we looking at exactly?
In watching the first 30 minutes of the movie, I was initially disheartened. It was painfully cliché and unoriginal, and I thought I was going to be stuck watching another generic romance movie. It wasn’t until we started getting deeper into both stories that my interest peaked. Instead of seeing it as a romance drama, I preferred seeing it as a coming of age story. Unfortunately, the romance aspect does get in the way of that, but I’ll talk about that later.
Let’s take a look at the pregnant storyline first. I felt that this universe provided an honest look into the struggles of young motherhood. From feeling isolated and alone, to reminiscing who you were before being a mother, to setting aside dreams and aspirations, Reinhart did well in portraying these multitude of emotions. There’s a sincerity in her performance that felt raw, which added to the audience’s understanding of the difficulties she faced.
Where it went wrong in my opinion was all the drama regarding her relationship with the father, Gabe (played by Danny Ramirez). I liked seeing that Gabe was supportive and played an active role in the baby’s life, but this was complicated by their confusing partnership. Their ups and downs led to an overall unpleasant partnership that felt way too fussy and overdone. While aspects of their relationship may certainly mimic real life challenges that come with co-parenting, way too much Hollywood flair was added.
On the other hand, in the universe where Natalie makes it to L.A., we find out it’s not all that perfect as she planned it to be either. Struggling to find a job, maintain relationships, and find her own voice are just some of the problems Natalie came to face. As someone who just graduated university last year myself, I could definitely understand her pain and anxiety. I found these moments of the film to be the most relatable for me (finding a job and making it on your own is hard guys) and felt that it was a truthful representation of what it’s like after college.
I also found Natalie’s relationship with Jake (played by David Corenswet) to be much less problematic than her relationship with Gabe as well. While they had a pretty solid relationship to begin with, finding new jobs and having to move because of them is a real thing. Long distance relationships are a real problem many couples face, and their eventual breakup felt pretty realistic to me.
But what I loved about Look Both Ways is that despite being on completely different paths, all these troubles pointed towards the same direction. In both situations, she never lost her passion for animating. While she gets fired in one scenario and becomes too preoccupied with parenthood in another, both Natalies become motivated to dedicate her time into creating animations. Why do I love this? Well, not only is it a beautiful message that tells us we can succeed as long as we put in time and effort, for new graduates (like me!) it’s especially reassuring and heartwarming. I love the movie’s message that your passion endures no matter what difficult life choices you make.
While I’m disappointed the movie succumbed to following some stereotypes, I was surprised by how heartfelt it was. The film definitely touches upon some sensitive topics, but it does so with a lightheartedness. My biggest wish is that the story focused more on Natalie’s personal development instead of adding so much unnecessary drama because that lost points for me. They could have stuck the landing a bit better too but I guess because it is still a romance drama, of course she had to be reunited with her boyfriend (in both stories!). It was a good attempt by Netflix to produce a romance movie that was a bit more imaginative though so I will give them props for that. As a result, my final score for Look Both Ways is a 6.5/10. Could’ve been better, but hey, I’m not mad at it either. For young adults heading out into the real world, this is a good one to check out. The most important takeaway from this movie? Always remember that everything will turn out okay.