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The Ways People Deal with Their Personal Tragedies in ‘Look Both Ways’

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  • Category: Emotions

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How does Sarah Watt explore the ways people deal with their personal tragedies in Look Both Ways? Discuss.

In Look Both Ways, Sarah Watt explores a variety of emotions and experiences, focusing on the ways people deal with their personal misfortune. Including the death of loved ones, the fear of death, possible relationship breakdowns and the grief of feeling responsible for somebody’s death. Watt uses visual images; animations, flashbacks and periods of silence to show the effects these issues have on each character.

Through conversations and images relating to the characters and relationships throughout the film, Watt suggests that forming supportive and meaningful relationships with others can help us cope with personal catastrophe during life. We see this in the support given to Nick from his boss. Phil arrives at the cricket match, not to play, but to ask Nick “How you going?” Many connections between people are unplanned and unexpected, for example the meeting of Meryl and Nick. Watt reveals their growing love by showing the viewer that they share common characteristics – they both seek relief in their work to help them deal with distressing situations. Nick has photography and Meryl has her paintings. “Cheaper than therapy.” Meryl says. Watts combination of quirky animations and images also helps to initiate the connection between Nick and Meryl. They are both preoccupied with death and disaster.

“I’m seeing death everywhere this weekend”, Says Nick and Meryl responds with “So do I”. When they make love for the first time we see an animation of what they are both imagining, their deepest fears. We notice that the animated images become less frightening for example; Nick’s cancer cells shrink. Towards the end of the film when Meryl’s relationship with Nick has developed, her imaginations are less threatening. The ‘black’ children in the animation are laughing as they say “Maybe it was meant to be”, just as Meryl is able to laugh at herself when the car splashes her. The outcome of Meryl and Nick unexpectedly meeting, discovering the things they have in common and falling in love with each other has helped them both cope with their personal tragedies.

Watt expresses moments of silence throughout the film to suggest the dept of emotion when a personal tragedy strikes us and how words are sometimes useless to those who are suffering from grief. The train driver sits at his kitchen table in silent grief, being watched by his wife. Sometimes people turn inward when they are grieving, while those around them quietly offer/give them support. For example when the train drivers son brings him a beer and they drink together in silence.

This scene was shot from a distance; just as Nicks front-page photo of Julia is a long-distance shot too. The camera looks through windows and doorways at Julia as she tries to deal with the death of Rob. The family members carefully tread around her, never entering her personal space. When the silences during the film are broken this has more impact. At the end of the film, the only words we hear the train driver say are ‘I’m the train driver. I’m sorry.’ And Julia replies: ‘It wasn’t your fault’. Julia smiles for the first time in the film as the driver and his son leave, which adds to the positive mood at the end of the film, once again suggesting that positive interactions with others can help us to deal with our personal tragedies.

Watt doesn’t show very much of Joan throughout the film, but from the scenes she stars in we learn she doesn’t dwell on the past. Joan makes the most of what she had and got to experience before her husband Jim died and has a much healthier approach towards his death than Nick. Joan has an important conversation with her son nick to persuade him into thinking about death in a more productive way.

“Your father’s death wasn’t the sum of his life. It doesn’t matter how life ends, it matters how it was. I couldn’t give him my way of coping, and you couldn’t give him yours. Everyone has to find a way to face their own death.. And life.” There is a lot of guilt built up around Jim’s tragic death, although Joan is also very accepting of the matter, but mainly because she feels she has to be strong as it’s the only effective way for her to cope with such grief.

People cope with the tragedies in their lives in various ways. They seek comfort in loving relationships; they pursue work and leisure activities, and they escape into the world of their imagination. Through dialogue, visual images, animations, flashbacks and other techniques Sarah Watt explores the ways people deal with their personal tragedies.

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