Look Both Ways just dropped on Netflix featuring our very own Kenyan film director Wanuri Kahiu who marked her first debut in a Hollywood project after making waves in international scenes for over a decade.
While speaking to Variety media, Kahiu could not express her excitement when she first received the script for Netflix’s “Look Both Ways,” she felt like she was in a certain sense, reading her own story.
The movie is about a recent university graduate, Natalie (Lili Reinhart), who takes a pregnancy test on the eve of her college graduation. Her life then diverges into two parallel worlds: one where she stays in Texas and becomes a young mother, and the other in which she isn’t pregnant and moves to L.A. to pursue a career in animation.
In the path of her finding out she’s pregnant, Natalie decides to raise her baby and co-parent with her baby daddy and best friend Gabe, while the other direction sees her living out her dream of moving to LA with her best friend Cara (played by Aisha Dee) as she pursues her dream of working in animation.
Both of Nat’s paths play out very differently, with the latter leading her to meet and date her co-worker Jake (played by David Corenswet).
“I felt it was partially my life, in the sense that I remember the exact moment I realized I was pregnant and how I literally saw my life take a parallel route,” says Kahiu, now a mother of two “I believe in parallel lives and multiple existences, and it really appealed to me.”
“Look Both Ways,” premiered on Aug. 17, marking Kahiu’s first Hollywood project. Her first feature film, “From a Whisper,” won best screenplay and director at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009, and her second, “Rafiki” — a critically acclaimed queer love story that was temporarily banned in Kenya — was the first film from the country to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. Having made her previous feature films independently, Kahiu was struck by the “luxury of choice” that came with working on a Netflix production.
“It’s small things, like when we were doing all the car scenes, there was this amazing, huge car rig. But every time I’ve done a car scene before this, I’ve been in the boot, tucked in between the crevices and the sound guy,” Kahiu says with a laugh. “It’s just like being in a Costco for the first time — it blows your mind.”
Despite the bigger budget, Kahiu made sure her signature touches still shone through, like building well-rounded characters and creating nuance through color.
“We played L.A. as reds and oranges and pinks, and we played Texas as the blue-green palette. The first split starts to happen the moment she gets pregnant,” Kahiu says. “It was something that we wanted the audience to feel, but not necessarily notice.”
The result is a thought-provoking yet comforting film that Kahiu hopes encourages people to follow their hearts, no matter where life leads. And though the film doesn’t center on Natalie’s choice whether or not to keep the baby — instead on if she becomes pregnant in the first place — Kahiu acknowledges the timeliness of the topic.
“I’m so devastated by what happened with Roe v. Wade because it affects so many people, not only in the U.S., but all the policies that have been funded as a result internationally,” Kahiu says. “Even though this film is not necessarily about choice, I love that it tells any young woman that regardless of which way your life goes, if you truly follow your heart, you’ll be good. You’re making the right decision for yourself.”
Netflix fans have already shared how impressed they are with the storyline, with people praising one part of the plot in particular; the ending.
Those who have watched the film have been particularly in awe of the ending where – despite Nat both having very different endings in each scenario – she ends up happy in a very full circle moment. Indeed its a clear reflection of that classic saying; ‘what’s meant to be, will be’.