Look Both Ways (Sarah Watt) 36 – This sub-Magnolia ensemble piece is too contrived to really work. Centering on a train wreck that left a man killed, the movie improbably presents the event as a central opportunity for soul-searching in its entire sad sack cast. Without much in the way of originality, it features disconnected characters trying to overcome themselves as they tentatively work toward emotional bonds. It’s been done a million times before, and usually been done better. The catharsis, when it finally comes, feels awfully forced because the initial crisis felt so forced.
Stylistically, Watt shows mild promise. This is her first feature film, following a series of animated shorts. That background makes itself apparent in frequent, short animated scenes that show her lead heroine’s daydreams. Her leading male character, a photographer, similarly has his interior anxieties conveyed through brief, rapid-fire photomontages. When their inevitable sex scene occurs, Watt crosscuts it with snippets of both of their interior apprehensions, resulting in a flurry of anxiety. Unfortunately, few scenes are so inspired. The culmination in particular feels like a direct rip-off of Magnolia. With a sub-Mann folkie warbling on the soundtrack, Watt crosscuts from one character’s low point to another, trying to make us understand the frustrations of coping with the world. It should be a powerful moment, but the near-lack of connection with these characters completely nullifies it.