In her debut feature, Watt overreaches. She attempts to craft an ensemble piece along the lines of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, complete with soulful rock songs meant to tie together disparate characters as they confront the sudden perception of mortality. The scaffolding shows, and none of the subplots are as vivid as the central romance. But that love story is enough to put the movie over, especially when Watt alternately depicts the couple’s dueling montages of disaster—the painter’s with expressionistic whooshes of color, the photographer’s with hyperrealistic cancer cells breaking off and embarking on their journey into the bloodstream. Even when it spreads itself too thin, Look Both Ways enlarges your perception of the here-and-now—and what movies can do to transcend it.
I’m continually astonished by the level of wit, craftsmanship, and narrative cunning that goes into your basic crap thriller. Consider Lucky Number Slevin, with its lickety-split banter, shocking violence, and artfully disorienting story line. The pretzeled syntax is fun for a while. But as the holes are filled in, the film stands revealed as just another vacuous revenge picture. It shrinks your perception of what movies can do.