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Monday, 5 December 2005
A film to look out for
Topic: Raving
Hey, you non-Australians who have access to a movie theater or video rental shop that specializes in foreign films, you should keep an eye out for a lovely Australian movie called Look Both Ways. I was feeling so stressed and sorry for myself after the whole essay thing this afternoon that I decided a trip to the matinee was in order, and did I ever pick the right film to nudge me out of a pity party.

Look Both Ways is a rarity: a warm, funny, mature, poignant film about grief and loss and hope and relationships. The writer and director, Sarah Watt, says: “I set out to make a romantic comedy, but the stuff of most people’s lives includes what we think of as tragedy, so LOOK BOTH WAYS ended up a bit of both I guess." I can't remember the last time I saw a film where I laughed and cried in near-equal measure, yet also felt compelled to think about the ideas in the film, rather than just what I was feeling.

The story is about a group of people, some previously connected, some about to become connected, who interact over the course of a weekend as they all attempt to come to terms with substantial changes in their lives - a new baby, the death of a loved one, a serious illness. I found it very true to life in its depiction of the awkwardness that surrounds such events. There are moments of startling compassion and wisdom, but there's also a lot of muddling through and unintentional wounding, just as in real life. Watt has a keen but sympathetic eye for relationships, particularly the dynamics within families, and the ways in which people communicate by not saying things to each other.

I was impressed by the range of means that Watt uses to communicate the story. The dialogue is well-written, and Watt makes very effective use of animation (some of it based on her own artwork) to illustrate the thoughts and feelings of Meryl and Nick, the two main characters. There are also two small plots that take place with almost no verbalization at all, relying entirely on the actors' physical expressiveness. It could have been jarring to have all of that going on, but Watt keeps her characters at the forefront at all times, so these different techniques and approaches are kept in service to the story, rather than distracting from it.

The world that the film created was so real that it still feels like I'm in it, even now, hours later. I'm still turning over things that Meryl said and did, and I fell a little bit in love with Nick. I think the last movie I was so strongly touched by was The Pianist. Look Both Ways is less traumatic, yet I find it somehow more affecting, perhaps because it takes place in such a recognizable world. Maybe everyday tragedy sticks with me longer because its easier to comprehend than epic tragedy.

But there's not just tragedy in the movie - there's romance, there are genuinely funny moments, and there are some gorgeous visuals. And lovely music - I will probably be buying the soundtrack. Possibly tomorrow. In short, I really can't think of anything about this movie that I didn't like, and I strongly suggest that you see it if you have the chance.

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