This review contains minor spoilers for Look Both Ways, a new movie on Netflix
Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if one thing went differently? Maybe you got into a different college, or moved to a different city, or maybe even didn’t get pregnant.
Well, the latter is exactly what happened to Natalie (Lili Reinhart) in the movie Look Both Ways. After having sex with her best friend Gabe (Danny Ramirez), Natalie gets sick at her college graduation party and ends up throwing up in the bathroom. When her friend Cara (Aisha Dee) arrives to help, she brings with her two options- either Natalie ate bad 7/11 sushi, or she’s pregnant. From there the movie diverges into two separate paths, tracking Natalie’s life based on which option is the truth.
Let’s get one thing straight: this is a movie that wanted to talk about the impacts of an abortion, but was too scared to do it. Rather than just having her not be pregnant, the movie could just as easily have had her decided to get an abortion. In the scene where Natalie tells Gabe that she’s pregnant, they say “what do you want to do?” and he says “I’m pro your choice” but they never once say the word abortion. The film took the easy way out, but it’s something that I’m willing to accept because I don’t think it decreased the effectiveness of the film.
Over the course of my life, I’ve had various feelings about whether or not I would keep the child. As someone growing up with the ability to get pregnant, it’s something that we would talk about. Friends would have pregnancy scares that would lead us to contemplating what she should do. It was a topic of conversation even before the government took that choice away from us, because there was no way to be 100% sure that it wasn’t something you’d need to decide one day. I wish the movie had taken the time to linger on that reality a little more than it did. Cara and Natalie had most certainly had a conversation about what would happen if one of them got pregnant.
The brushing over of that scene was consistent, at least, with the lack of depth in the way the film explored Cara and Natalie’s relationship. Maybe it’s because I just watched A League of Their Own, a show which was so adept at exploring the intricacies of female friendship, but I felt like the dynamic between the two of them fell a little flat. Reinhart and Dee gave believable performances, and both are talented actors, but the script didn’t give them room to explore that relationship.
Motherhood, according to Look Both Ways, is a choice that boils down to “which boy will you end up with”. It made for a cute double romcom, but if they were going to use pregnancy as the basis for their time split, then there was a responsibility to explore the other ramifications. There was only one scene where we saw Natalie’s friendship being harmed by her decision to keep her child, and even that largely ignored for what it meant for Natalie and Gabe’s relationship.
In all, I thought the movie was good, and the actors brought life to all of their roles, I just don’t think that the writers of the film were ready to take on the full burden of exploring the ramifications of keeping a pregnancy. They would have been better served to make it a different decision, such as staying home to take care of a sick parent, or something else that wouldn’t have as far flung impacts, since they didn’t explore those impacts anyways.
I’d still recommend the film, just don’t expect anything that realistic to come out of it.