Review: What If (2013)

Directed by: Michael Dowse | 102 minutes | comedy, drama, romance | Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Megan Park, Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis, Rafe Spall, Lucius Hoyos, Jemima Rooper, Tommie-Amber Pirie, Meghan Heffern, Jonathan Cherry, Rebecca Northan, Jordan Hayes, Oona Chaplin, Adam Fergus

One of the most original romantic comedies of recent years is “Ruby Sparks” (2012). In this film written by Zoe Kazan she plays the title role herself. Much less original, but still worth it is “What If”, in which Zoe Kazan is the co-star of Daniel Radcliffe, who is definitely shaking off his Harry Potter image with this film.

Radcliffe plays Wallace. This young twenties lives in the attic of his sister and her little boy, has a crappy job as a manual writer and has been single for over a year after his girlfriend Megan cheated on him. Since both Wallace and Megan were studying doctors, Wallace decided to drop out of the study. Since then he hardly shows his face in social life. The first night he does, at a party of his former roommate and friend Allan (Adam Driver), he meets his niece Chantry (Zoe Kazan). The two have a click and Wallace walks home with Chantry. She casually mentions that she has a boyfriend, but Wallace indicates that “just friendship” is fine. Despite that, he throws away her phone number moments later. When the pair meet for the cinema a while later, after the performance of “The Princess Bride” (no, “What If” does not take place in the eighties) they decide to have dinner together. A close friendship is born. When Chantry’s friend Ben (Rafe Spall) has to go to Ireland for six months for work, the relationship with Wallace only deepens. Chantry thinks it’s fine. But isn’t Wallace secretly having feelings for his best friend?

“What If” is a charming comedy that owes a lot to the protagonists overflowing with natural charisma who together share an unmistakable, pleasant chemistry. The question whether men and women can really have a platonic relationship has been posed before in films, but director Michael Dowse (known from “Goon”) and screenwriter Elan Mastai give it a fresh twist and go into the matter a little deeper. It helps that both characters are responsible adults, for whom cheating just isn’t in the dictionary.

Another plus are the nice and strange, often cynical dialogues; For example, Wallace and Chantry elaborate on the amount of feces found in the bodies of recently deceased people and get the recipe for Fool’s Gold, Elvis’s favorite dish. Since Chantry is an animator, we regularly see her drawings come to life, which gives the film a magical touch. The supporting roles are also strong, with Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis sharing first place as his girlfriend Nicole. Sometimes the scenario is a bit over the top: Wallace and Ben’s first meeting ends in hospital, and Wallace’s sudden decision to travel to Europe feels forced as well. But enough surprising, entertaining and endearing remains to categorize “What If” under the heading “Recommended”.

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