What If (also known in some places as The F Word) is a film about the place that many–if not all of us–have been put: the oh-so-dreaded friend zone. What If is essentially When Harry Met Sally put in the modern age: can two people be strictly friends while one carries on a long term relationship while the other is deeply in love with their best friend. Luckily, the movie steers away from all of the unrealistic tropes given to us in some recent rom-coms and offers up wonderful and realist look at an issue that plagues us all.
Wallace, played by Daniel Radcliffe, has given up on romance. He has finally started to move on from his last girlfriend, but he is still a bit miserable. At a party hosted by his pal Allan (Adam Driver) he creates an instant bond with Chantry (Zoe Kazan), and after chatting all evening, he walks her home only to have the bombshell dropped that she is in a relationship. I don’t know about you, but this situation is all too familiar. He gets her number, but since he felt that there was more of a connection than just friendship, he tosses it. Some time passes, and as fate would have it, they find each other again and decide to be friends because he is lonely and she is tired of always being “that girl with the boyfriend.” They strike up a strong friendship, but obviously Wallace wants and hopes it will go somewhere else.
So we follow their friendship through many events that people can relate to. Does he tell her how she feels and have her feel like he’s a scumbag with ulterior motives? Does he try to break them up? He is trapped. To make it worse, Chanty’s boyfriend, Ben, is an incredibly likable and successful person who Chanty is happy to be with. He does not cheat, lie, or anything that would give Chanty a reason to leave him. This dynamic helps elevate the film from other commonly known character situations because it isn’t about one guy being a “bad guy” and us yelling at the girl to leave him for the other, it is about both guys being “good” and having her decide between who she really wants.
Radcliffe and Kazan are marvelous in this, with the former continuing to shed his Harry Potter typecasting and the latter achieving the most “adorkable” performance of 2014. Their chemistry is luminous. One hopes that they are actually good friends now because their performances would surely go to waste if they weren’t. Radcliffe has done a good job at distancing himself from the wand and glasses, and with more roles like this he will surely be an actor to be reckoned with. Kazan, on the other hand, has the most difficult role in this film; her performance is both lovable and a bit sad to watch because we see her juggling her love for Ben but also the budding emotions that she may or may not be growing for Wallace. With the help of the humorous and real script, their characters come to life off the screen, and they just seem like real people dealing with a real problem and real feelings.
Supporting them is a funny and lovable cast of crazy and hilarious friends, coworkers, and siblings. Adam Driver, who can be seen in the upcoming Star Wars film, plays a wild and oddly romantic fellow who finds love too, but his love is a little more bizarre and shared by his partner, played by Mackenzie Davis, and they both watch Wallace struggle with his feelings and dilemma concerning Chantry. Rafe Spall, who plays Ben, is likable too, though we do not exactly want him in the picture. The only thing that really keeps us hating him is the fact that we don’t want him and Chantry together, which as I said before, helps make the movie a little more original.
In the end, What If is a delightful and honest film about an area that no person wants to be in: the friend zone. It raises questions about love, friendship, and who we are meant to be with, while also dealing with some of the harsh truths that come into play when there is a relationship like this one. Kazan and Radcliffe are utterly delightful in their performances as well, helping make this one of the best romantic comedies to come out all year. So, if you’ve ever found yourself in a situation like the one in the movie, love Radcliffe, rom-coms, Kazan, or a great chemistry, or if you just want to see a movie that does not involve space or mutants, then What If will surely leave you delighted.