LOOK BOTH WAYS
Set over a hot Australian country town weekend, several people dealing with unexpected events find their lives intersecting. Nick (William McInnes) visits a doctor for a routine medical and is given a devastating diagnosis but has to wait until Monday for specialist advice. Meryl (Justine Clark), returning from a family funeral, has until Monday to finish her art project or lose her job. Andy (Anthony Hayes) is thrown by his girlfriend's ultimatum and has until Monday to consider the news of her unplanned pregnancy, while dealing with ex wife and children. He and Nick and Meryl are also connected through a tragic rail accident.
Review by Louise Keller:
A wry black comedy about life, death and relationships, Look Both Ways is an original and appealing film with a unique slant. All the characters are trying to stay afloat in their lives, which are punctuated by adversity. It's an impressive debut for writer /director Sarah Watt, whose multi-layered characters are interesting on more than one level. I especially like the effective use of hand-painted animated sequences, symbolising inner thoughts, usually of a pessimistic kind but amusingly portrayed.
Set in Adelaide after a recent train derailment in which there were many fatalities, we meet a group of characters each of whom is dealing with a crisis of some kind. They're a likeable bunch, whose lives intersect through circumstance and coincidence. Nick (William McInnes) works as a photographer on the local paper. He sees life through his lens, but is feeling totally disoriented since the doctors diagnosed him with cancer. His imagination runs riot as his life flashes before his eyes, and he finds himself drawn to Justine Clarke's Meryl, an artist with a vivid imagination, brought to life through her sketches. She visualizes sharks devouring her, or a car squashing her as she walks home. Her father has just died, and both Nick and Justine are suffocating from the fear of death. Nick's plight also impacts on his professional relationships, both with his editor (Andrew S. Gilbert) who starts to take a greater interest in his young family, and Anthony Hayes' Andy, a selfish chauvinistic journalist with a dysfunctional broken marriage and a newly pregnant girlfriend (Lisa Flanagan). (Watch out for an overtly pregnant Sacha Horler in a cameo.)
McInnes and Clarke are especially charismatic as they clumsily fall into each other's arms in a romance of errors. This romance is an unusual one - they meet on Friday, sleep together on Saturday, followed by a disastrous lunch with his mother on Sunday. There are also subplots concerning Nick's father who died a year earlier, a young woman whose photo after the tragic death of her husband on the train tracks becomes front page news, the train driver who is shocked by the events and the bitter deserted girlfriend who finds herself pregnant and vulnerable.
As the story winds its way to its conclusion, the heavens open up and a symbolic downpour is a watershed. Look Both Ways is a poignant film that exposes the funny side of serious topics. How to cope with death is one thing; but how to cope with one's life is quite another. It explores the big issues and the small, enabling us to not only look carefully, but to look at life from all angles.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Look Both Ways develops ideas seeded in Sarah Watt's animated short, Living With Happiness. If you don't know that work (and perhaps even if you do) the constant presence of death and dying may surprise you (especially considering the upbeat title of the short). Hailed as a real original, the screenplay explores its characters at a moment in time when they each face life's bigger issues of life and death, but it does so with a lightness of touch that deceives us: it's not about death, but about our fears, our weaknesses and our enormous reserves of humanity that can drag us out of the jaws of death into the sunlight of life.
In the cold deconstruction of the storyline - without seeing how it's done - the film may appear manipulative, with its optimistic ending. Actually, it's more than optimistic, but I won't spoil it; suffice to say there is the same economy in its editing as in its storytelling, delivering an emotive and multi layered story of people who are instantly recognisable. They are not extraordinary in any way, they don't work in glamorous jobs or have slick homes; they are real and palpably Australian.
While performances are crucial, the film really floats on its emotional and visceral content, with Sarah Watt's animated paintings flashing up as representations of Meryl's inner thoughts and feelings. This is so well done that it doesn't appear to be a device but an organic part of the screenplay and the character.
A fascinating film, Look Both Ways is full of symbolism of the more accessible kind, from the trains that play a major role to the illness and death that stalks its characters. Much to enjoy and much to debate.
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SARAH WATT INTERVIEW
LOOK BOTH WAYS (M)
CAST: William McInnes, Justine Clark, Anthony Hayes, Sacha Horler,[BREAK]Lisa Flanagan, Andrew S. Gilbert, Daniela Farinacci, Maggie Dence, Edwin Hodgeman, Andreas Sobik
PRODUCER: Bridget Ikin
DIRECTOR: Sarah Watt
SCRIPT: Sarah Watt
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ray Argall
EDITOR: Denise Haratzis ACE
MUSIC: Amanda Brown
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rita Zanchetta
OTHER: Sarah Watt, Clare Callinan (animation painting)
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 18, 2005