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DVD Review

Look Both Ways (2005)
Australia/Director & Writer, Sarah Watts
Cinematography, Ray Argull

Carly McLain

Disaster is Everywhere

Look Both Ways is Sarah Watts Australian debut, and what a beautifully vivid piece of contemporary filmmaking it is. The film essentially comprises of all the familiar narrative elements, evident in Magnolia (1999), the amalgamation of a series of lives, forced together by chance, by one important entity. It’s a mesmerising and deeply moving debut by the Australian newcomer. She, herself, is a native Australian, who has carefully created, not only a thought provoking piece of Australian life, but adapted a real essence of the her own personality and imagination.

She montages her own hand-made painted animation images, through a series of thoughts and emotions, explored through comical sketches and the human state; this is cleverly contrasted with the films sequences.
The film is enhanced by a faultless performance by the central female character, Meryl. She brings an extroidinary realness and likeability to the film, her thoughts are subsequently transformed into these hand painted animation sketches, giving light to the underlying serious theme.

The sparse neglected Australian landscapes and dirt tracks are more charismatic than saddening. It is no surprise then that this film managed to scoop four awards at the Adelaide Film Festival in 2005, Best Film, Director, Best Original screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. Successfully cementing the rise, of leading Australian filmmakers.

The film has received immense recognition throughout Australia and is now embarking on conquering the American film festivals. The film consequently, received a standing innovation at the awards ceremony. A mature, complex and beautifully directed film, Sarah Watt’s technique seems effortless, with a convincing cast to complement. The complex characters are contrasted with derelict dirt tracks and the cityscapes of Australia. Each performance is so genuinely moving that it is hard to concentrate on one character at a time, they all have flaws and they all go through a harsh learning process. This, in essence, is what captivated me about the film. It shows raw emotion at its purest. A link between consequence, fate and destiny, seems to arise from each of the characters situations. It is in fact, an emotionally expressive explosion of a film. It touches a nerve. The strong performances by all the cast help to carry the films storyline and underlying subject matter. The title itself is clearly a catalyst for the film. Not accepting just one alternative, but looking further into our choices and desires. The film is very reflective in every sense.

An autobiographical scrapbook of each character, seen through a sequence of montage images, helps us to visualise each character’s past and present. You get the feeling that Watt’s has tried to make us understand how society shapes us, and our relationships, but also constricts our true inner feelings amid one another. The intricate emotions of family, the worry of life threatening deceases and the sense of soldiering on in all efforts to forget.

It is a powerful debut, which carefully constructs the complex existence of human life. The strains of merely living in a modern world and the complications that arise through our existence are portrayed accurately through the lives of seven very different characters. Watt’s has carefully entwined the lives of all, connecting them through one event, which will change their perspective, on life after death.

The soundtrack elevates the film immensely; a collection shaped from Australian artists, such as Sleepy Jackson, the soundtrack also contains the track, "Dark of My Moon" by Gene Clark of The Bryds fame.
Watt’s herself originally set out to make a romantic comedy, but the stuff of most peoples lives includes what we think of as tragedy, she explains;
"Look Both Ways ended up a bit of both I guess. I like searching for the universal aspects of people’s experience, in both the big and little things. I tried to keep everything as ‘real’ as I could, to allow people to receive the film as part of their own experience, to bring their own lives to it and enjoy it that way".
And it certainly is one of those films that you can relate to in one way or another, emotionally and spiritually, if you like Magnolia (1999), you will no doubt love this film, it truly is an enchanting and heartening debut, we definitely need more Australian films like this! Pronto!

© Carly Mclain Feb 2007
misshoney780 at

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Carly is soon to be a graduate of the Creative Arts Programme at the University of Portsmouth

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