Lili Reinhart doesn’t want viewers of “Look Both Ways” to think that one of her character’s split storylines is the correct choice or ‘better than the other path.’
“You can obviously walk away from the film thinking ‘Oh, I really resonated with that path’ or ‘I really resonated with that one,’ but we wanted to make sure that one wasn’t a clear ‘Ding, ding, ding! That was the right one,’” she said.
Reinhart’s character Natalie Bennett faces two very different sets of circumstances after she sleeps with her friend Gabe (Danny Ramirez) and takes a pregnancy test the night of her college graduation. In one scenario, Natalie does not get pregnant, and her nausea gets chalked up to bad 7/11 sushi. In the other, she does get pregnant, and her whole post-college plan changes.
“Both lives show the struggle and the happiness because, I think it was obviously important to not make one life better or worse than the other,” Reinhart said. “I think the difference is, obviously, struggling with motherhood and maybe feeling like she is kind of losing her identity and losing her passion and rather than in LA, when she’s struggling to just move forward in her career. So it’s different struggles within her career, I think, which is interesting.”
Natalie studied 2D and 3D illustration in hopes of pursuing an animation career. In both parts of her divergent narrative, she faces obstacles in achieving that dream. Reinhart shouted out director Wanuri Kahiu for sharpening Natalie’s determination to do things on her own.
“She always was a champion for making sure Natalie was always actively trying to pursue her goals and ambitions and that she wasn’t letting other people try to do it for her,” Reinhart said. “That she was actively in control of her path. And that was something that was definitely like the North guiding star for her in both storylines that she needed to find her path and not have other people do it for her.”
This independence threads through both Natalie’s life as an aspiring illustrator in Los Angeles, where she moves to pursue her dreams in the timeline where she doesn’t get pregnant, and in her return home to raise her and Gabe’s baby, who they name Rosie, in the other. Gabe immediately supports whatever choice Natalie wants to make when she finds out she is pregnant.
“A lot of miniature me’s are gonna watch this, and I’ve always known the chapter titles of things, but not so much like what the substance of the chapter is when it comes to really healthy family dynamics,” Ramirez said. “Exploring that and showing younger people what it could be like is what Wanuri was really excited about and what we tried to nail down with Gabe.”
Gabe accompanies her home, where he remains in Rosie’s life even when Natalie suggests he get his own place and start dating other women.
“There’s not much representation of like, great fathers on screen,” Ramirez said. “And from the first conversation with Wanuri, the character of Gabe really excited her because it was someone, a young man, equally involved in a pivotal life moment and being able to then, within that, step up to the plate and be able to be there in the best way he could.”
Ramirez revealed that he took inspiration to build Gabe’s character from “The Will to Change” by bell hooks, which he was reading for a previous project, “No Exit.”
“The seed of Gabe — I was reading ‘The Will to Change’ by bell hooks, and I kind of used that in two projects back to back, one more so the toxic masculinity spoken about in one half of it, and then I shot ‘Look Both Ways’ right after,” Ramirez said. “I thought it’d be interesting — it only deepens knowing the full spectrum of it and having like, meditated on it and so I used the ideal positive side that book to then run with entirely. I think so much of Gabe came from that, and I think doing the negative side of it in one way of like what that could be for a different project and then seeing that like, just fully investigated built a real three-dimensional person that then was aware of all this but tried to be better.”
Natalie’s love interests in both storylines unfold in a slow burn style, and Reinhart likes that there are two different people her character likely ends up with in the two branches the plot takes.
“I loved how she how she ended up with two different guys because, to me, I think it’s really intimidating to walk into the world thinking ‘there’s only one and I gotta find that person out of 7 billion,’” Reinhart said. “There’s a lot of people out there and there’s a lot of beautiful people and connections that you can have. And I think that was sort of reassuring as someone in their 20s trying to figure my life out.”