Movie Review – What If (2014)

Director: Michael Dowse

Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Megan Park, Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis, Rafe Spall

Wallace (Radcliffe) is a bitter young man who has given up all hope of love when he meets Chantry (Kazan) at a party. The two of them hit it off, she gives him her number and he starts to hope that something good could come of it…when he finds out that she has a boyfriend. Oh. Still, she proposes that they be friends and he accepts, yet they get on so well that it’s hard to keep his feelings in check, especially when she starts to show signs that she feels the same. 

What If is a fairly standard rom-com that doesn’t stray too far from the formula. As a result it is predictable but this doesn’t prevent it from being charming, sweet, smart and funny. The chemistry between Radcliffe and Kazan sizzles, the script is sharp with some cutting wit, and the situations are completely relatable. I also liked the animation that was woven throughout the film. 

One thing I particularly liked is that nobody was the bad guy, it was just how circumstances worked out. This is true to life and the tension came from seeing how each person dealt with the changes that were happening. Chantry’s boyfriend Ben (Spall) was cast in an antagonistic role but I don’t think he was a douchebag for the sake of being a douchebag, and there were a few moments when you could see that he and Chantry had good chemistry themselves, so it wasn’t a case of her being in a worthless relationship. 

But the joy is in Wallace and Chantry’s interactions. The two of them click and they go back and forth covering a wide range of topics that happens all too rarely in real life. It’s electric and the fact that they won’t acknowledge the attraction between each other is strung out for as long as possible and released at the perfect time, providing a whip-cracking sensation when it all comes to a head. The other characters are fun too and add to the proceedings in entertaining ways. I had a great time watching and I can’t recommend it highly enough but I did have a couple of problems, one that was actually sorted quickly but the other still bothers me. 

The first is that at the end I felt some things were being left unresolved, however, stay behind to watch the cute animation and it ties up the loose ends in quite a clever way, because it’s not something that could have been included in the film without feeling clunky and trite. The other though…well, a plot point hinges on a character coming across some information via a screwed up piece of paper in a waste paper bin. There’s absolutely no reason why they should have been going through this bin, it’s not full so it doesn’t need to be emptied, it was screwed up in a ball so it’s not as though they glimpsed a word that caught their attention, it’s just a completely ridiculous device used to bring out a conflict and it’s lazy screenwriting at its best. I wouldn’t have minded it as much if there had been a reason for them to go rooting around in the bin.

However, that is not enough to harm my enjoyment of the film. I liked it a lot and was completely engaged throughout, so much so that I didn’t really think of anything else apart from the film. It doesn’t defy any of the conventions of the genre but it does feel fresh, and this is testament to Radcliffe and Kazan who are superb together. I’m really enthusiastic about this one so I’m definitely recommending it. 

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