Justine Clarke stars as Meryl, a morbid illustrator, in Look Both Ways.


Look Both Ways

Stars: Justine Clarke, William McInnes

Director: Sarah Watt

Rating: PG

**** (out of five)

When a contemporary movie is described as a multicharacter study, you tend to think of two things: Short Cuts or Magnolia. Quirky interconnectivity, or quirky interconnectivity with frogs.

Look Both Ways, the feature debut of Australian animator Sarah Watt, is indeed a multicharacter movie with quirky interconnectivity, but it’s got more in common with Miranda July’s sunny comedy Me, You And Everyone We Know than with Robert Altman or Paul Thomas Anderson.

The film — which begins a week’s run tonight at the Bloor Cinema — follows a dozen or so characters, all connected by their proximity to a fatal rail accident, over one very eventful weekend.

Gradually, though, it becomes clear that Watt’s real focus is the relationship between an illustrator (Justine Clarke) and a photographer (William McInnes), who meet at the site of the accident and continue to bounce off one another, both literally and figuratively, throughout the narrative.

Yes, they have quirks: The illustrator’s morbid imagination constantly burps up fantasies of her horrible death, rendered as playful animation. And the photographer’s gaze translates everything into dynamic still frames.

But there’s much more to them than their cinematic devices, and Watt lets the characters reveal themselves in the ways they behave with one another, and with their similarly intertwined circles of friends; the story surrounds everyone with darkness and death, but there’s an undercurrent of optimism hiding within, just waiting to be found.

All they have to do is start looking.