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The Independent Critic

Justine Clark, William McInnes, Anthony Hayes
Sarah Watt
Rated PG-13
100 Mins.
Kino International
 "Look Both Ways" Review 
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"Look Both Ways," the debut film from Australian filmmaker Sarah Watt, captured four Australian Film Awards in 2005 including Best Picture. The film best best described as, well, a romantic comedy about death.

Okay, maybe that's not the best direction. How morbid.

But, it really is about death. Really.

On the other hand, it's often very sweet and romantic.

How Kino Films chooses to market "Look Both Ways" may very well determine its potential for any box-office success in the United States. If history repeats itself, "Look Both Ways" will be yet another brilliant, indie flick to slip under the radar while yet another mindless action flick explodes onscreen with a $200 million payday.

"Look Both Ways," which is similar in tone to both Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" and Miranda July's "Me and You and Everyone We Know," is the best Australian film in years and a remarkable debut from filmmaker Watts.

The film weaves several storylines, all essentially centered upon the subject of death...

The action begins in Adelaide, Australia when a man is struck by a train. A news photographer named Nick (William McInnes) arrives at the scene with a reporter named Andy (Anthony Hayes). They are joined by the newspaper editor (Andrew Gilbert) and the dead man's wife (Daniela Farinacci).

Each of these players arrive at the scene with their own agendas, life experiences and ideologies. Nick takes a touching, powerful photo of the widow at the scene that lands on the front page, alongside an article editorialized by Andy's belief that many accidents are suicides. Andy speculates that the man may have, in fact, walked in front of the train.

Then, out of nowhere comes Meryl (Justine Clark). Meryl has witnessed the train accident on her way home from her father's funeral.

Did I mention this film centers around death?

I wasn't kidding.

Nick has just discovered he has testicular cancer that has spread into his lungs, while Andy has just discovered his girlfriend is pregnant.

Meryl, who paints seascapes for greeting cards, often pictures herself the victim of a wide variety of violent deaths. These deaths are interspersed throughout the film by animation. Sound too quirky? Think again. Watts, an award-winning animator whose entire previous film history is in the area of animation, perfectly blends the animation into the various scenarios. This includes what may be one of the funniest sex scenes ever seen in a film. It's utter perfection.

Much like "Magnolia," "Look Both Ways" melds all of these characters together in ways both comical and tragic. As we weave our way through the tangled web that becomes a relationship between Nick and Meryl, we are also brought face to face with the remarkable performance of Andreas Sobik as the train conductor. Sobik's quiet, almost unspoken performance, is amazing in that its depth never feels out of balance with the film's often funny scenes from the other characters.

"Look Both Ways" could have easily failed. It works because Watt presents these characters as richly human people with nearly fatal flaws who still struggle to survive. These are not heroic characters, and neither are they over-dramatized or even deeply resolved by film's end. How do you resolve a destined to fail relationship between a man whose body is filled with cancer and a woman who expects to die at any moment? You don't. You simply allow them to live and breathe through every moment...loving each other and finding bits and pieces of happiness along the way.

The performances are uniformly strong, most notably those of Clarke, McInnes and Sobik. Yet, truly, "Look Both Ways" is the consummate ensemble flick with actors and actresses who get the film's quirky twists and the fine nuances of the film. "Look Both Ways" truly looks both ways. It respects death, yet celebrates the journey of life.

"Look Both Ways" captured a Special Jury Prize during the 2006 Indianapolis International Film Festival and is being distributed in the United States by Kino Films.

Sarah Watt is a director to watch. "Look Both Ways" is a film you must see.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic