Monday, 1 September 2014

What if? (4 Stars)

This film was released in America as "The F Word". I prefer the English film title, because the smirks raised by the American title are unnecessary. Yes, the F word that the title refers to is "friends", but the fewest people would draw that connection before seeing the film. On the other hand, "What if?" says absolutely nothing as a title to someone who doesn't already know what the film is about, so both titles seem somehow wrong. How about "Let's be friends" or "Just friends"?

The film takes place in Toronto. A young man called Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) has moved to Canada to study medicine, but after breaking up with his girlfriend he dropped out and is now doing a boring job writing technical manuals. At a party he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan), a young woman who works in film animation, a job that she greatly enjoys. The two immediately hit it off, due to a multitude of common interests, but there's a problem: she has a boyfriend that she's been living with for five years. The two agree to be "just friends", even though Wallace wants more. Wallace confesses his feelings to his best friend Alan (Adam Driver), who happens to be Chantry's cousin. At first Alan tries to dissuade Wallace from making a move, but as time goes by he attempts to push the two together, much to Wallace's dismay.

Chantry's boyfriend, Ben, has a highly important job at the United Nations, mediating for international agreements. The job takes him to Dublin for six months. During this time Wallace and Chantry see even more of one another. Will they remain friends or shift into a relationship? I think that everyone who has ever seen a romantic comedy knows the answer from the beginning of the film, but the predictability doesn't spoil it at all. When the expected finally happened I had tears in my eyes, it was so moving.

As a romantic comedy the film doesn't keep exactly to the rules of the genre, but it remains close to them. For those who don't know how romantic comedies work, they have the tightest, most repetitive rules of any film genre:
  1. Girl meets boy.
  2. The girl doesn't like the boy, but as time goes on she grows to like him.
  3. Girl and boy go different ways. (Sometimes geographically, sometimes she returns to an ex-lover).
  4. Girl realises she can't live without the boy and returns to him.
The film is carried by the high quality of the acting. Daniel Radcliffe never ceases to surprise me. I expected him to fade away after the Harry Potter films, but he has considerable acting talents. Zoe Kazan, an actress that I hardly know, puts on an impressive performance. It's amazing how young she looks. She's 30, but doesn't look a day over 16. After seeing Adam Driver in "Tracks" I knew immediately that he has a big career ahead of him. Watch out for him in the future. Jemima Rooper is also noteworthy in her small role as Wallace's sister. With a cast like this the film couldn't possibly go wrong.

If you go to see this in the cinema, please don't leave when the credits start. During the credits the story is continued in an animated sequence. Don't walk out too soon or you'll miss it.

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