“What if?” is a consistently captivating question. What would you do if you were rejected instead of accepted if you chose one career over another if you left a sweetheart or stayed?
The non-Marvel multiverse potential is the evergreen hook of Idina Menzel’s If/Then, NBC’s Ordinary Joe, and Netflix’s forthcoming feature Look Both Ways, starring Lili Reinhart as a recent college graduate whose unplanned baby splits her life into two divergent paths. Imagine a millennial, streaming-era adaptation of Sliding Doors, the 1998 film starring Gwyneth Paltrow as a Londoner whose life diverges due to making/missing a train and, like Look Both Ways, in which a haircut distinguishes the timelines.
This Netflix film depicts an illusion of young womanhood by following the protagonist down two divergent paths: one in which she becomes pregnant and the other in which she seeks a job.
Natalie (Lili Reinhart) is an ambitious senior in college who has planned out her future. But after vomiting during a one-night affair, she takes a pregnancy test.
The Netflix miniseries “Look Both Ways” depicts this moment as a crossroads. It imagines two distinct possibilities for our protagonist: one in which her test is negative and the other in which it is positive.
In imitation of the “Sliding Doors” thought experiment, the film intercuts sequences from these two destinies. Natalie and her best friend Cara (Aisha Dee) take a road journey to Los Angeles, where Natalie chases an animation career. At that exact moment, a parallel Natalie bitterly accepts parenthood and moves back in with her chagrined parents to raise the baby (Andrea Savage and Luke Wilson).
The filmmaker, Wanuri Kahiu, uses color as a cinematic shorthand to distinguish between the two realms, adding reds to the set design of Natalie’s thrilling Hollywood escapades and blues to that of her lonelier motherhood in Texas.
This otherwise prominent film is marred by Natalie and the scriptwriter, April Prosser, who essentially overlook a readily available third option: an abortion. It’s unsettling to have Natalie’s unplanned pregnancy presented as a dose of reality rather than a choice, and the film’s release after Roe adds insult to injury.
Even though “Look Both Ways” seems to imply that, for women, childrearing and a career are in contradiction, when Natalie reaches a fork in the road, the film does not allow her to consider both options. It forces her down first one road, then another.