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:: Look Both Ways

Okay. Let’s see how we can sum this up. First, there’s Meryl, an animation artist who lives in perpetual fear of death, then Nick, a photographer who has just discovered he’s got cancer, then Andy, who’s just knocked up his girlfriend, then there are their workmates, family… There’s no overall story, but a running theme. In this case it’s all about buying the farm. Kicking the bucket. Death. Cue all sorts of self-indulgent existentialist schlock.

Yes, the ensemble drama strikes again! In fact, Look Both Ways could be seen as a “How Not To…” guide on this narrative form. There are far too many ordinary characters for one. We know how artsy it is to rant on about how high cinema is all about character instead of action, but that’s provided they’re compelling. The undercooked humans who populate this world consist of clichéd and one-dimensional whiners. And that’s just the main cast. Often the film wastes precious time covering supporting characters doing nothing but thinking. The filmmaker may have a reason for loving these guys, but it’s not coming across on the screen.

Fortunately the performances are earnest, boosting what could’ve been a bomb into something watchable. Clarke does well with lonely artist Meryl despite the limited emotional dynamic, and McInnes shows good vulnerability as the cancer-rife Nick. The rest of the cast play their roles well too, despite the fact that the material rarely seems challenging or interesting.

There are some visually interesting effects to be found here, though. Director Watt brings her background as an animator to the story using some interesting use of psychological montage. Meryl’s paranoid fantasies of death play out in animated drawings seamlessly integrated into the film, while Nick’s visions of cancer are shown as fast-moving cancer photos and footage of poisoned cells (remember, he’s a photographer…). They’re a splash of style in an otherwise jumble of a film, even if they are overused.

Look Both Ways doesn’t deserve to be labelled a good film as it all plays out like a poor man’s Magnolia. It is, however, an honest film, and a pretty decent first feature effort for Watt. Let’s hope she sharpens up her writing skills and applies her eye for visual flair to another more promising project.