Applying a despondent variation of Better Off Dead‘s central aesthetic annoyance, Sarah Watt’s Look Both Ways periodically dramatizes artist Meryl’s (Justine Clarke) innermost insecurities via watercolor fantasy sequences in which she’s randomly shot by a stranger, swallowed up by an earthquake, or devoured by sharks. Such pessimistic thoughts are the crux of the Australian director’s live-action debut (after years spent working as an animated filmmaker), which traces a group of people over the course of a weekend as they’re forced to confront their fears, responsibilities, and mortality. It’s the last of these topics that differentiates Watt’s film from much of the imported indie herd, her story assiduously fixating itself on the transitoriness of life as it wends its way through the various plights of characters related either through blood, friendship, or a random tragedy involving a dog-walker killed by a locomotive. If this scenario of intertwined loneliness and misery sounds more than a little like Magnolia, it’s because Watt—offering up countless montages of sad-sacks scored to second-rate singer-songwriter ballads, as well as a rain-drenched cathartic climax—is unimaginatively predisposed to aping P.T. Anderson at every turn. More awkward than Look Both Ways’ plagiaristic qualities is its clumsy alternation between frank human drama and hand-drawn daydreams, which, after their third appearance, begin to amount to little more than a distracting affectation intended to quirkify the morose action. Of its knotted narrative threads, the most fully developed involves the relationship between Meryl, who’s just returned home from her father’s funeral, and photographer Nick (William McInnes), who’s recently learned that he has rapidly metastasizing testicular cancer. Linked by the looming specter of death, the couple shares an unspoken rapport that’s representative of Watt’s mature avoidance of turgid explanatory dialogue to convey the burden of loss and the joyous, comforting pleasures of love. Yet overrun with rapid-fire montages composed of photos (which recount, in condensed form, Nick’s past and future) and close-up images of diseased cells and organs, Watt’s aggressively idiosyncratic film—despite the fact that most of its peripheral proceedings are undernourished to the point of starvation—proves in need of some restraint.
- Kino International
- 100 min
- Sarah Watt
- Sarah Watt
- Justine Clarke, William McInnes, Anthony Hayes, Lisa Flanagan, Andrew S. Gilbert, Daniella Farinacci, Maggie Dence, Edwin Hodgeman, Andreas Sobik
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