What If?

Art & Culture

For a film that has many of the most annoying aspects of the indie romcom genre, Daniel Radcliffe's new film is surprisingly endearing. The man who will forever be known as Harry Potter makes another step away from the boy wizard, into hitherto unknown territory.

Wallace (Radcliffe) is a young man with not a lot going for him. Living in Toronto (despite being English), he has lost his girlfriend, given up on medical school, and is living in his sister's attic. At a party he meets his friend's cousin, Chantry (Zoe Kazan), a young woman of surpassingly whimsical appeal, who is an animator, and her animations populate the film – for reasons that are far from clear.

Wallace is, naturally, attracted to Chantry as they walk home after the party, and so is somewhat taken aback when she mentions a boyfriend. Friendship is what she's after, and we are into When Harry Met Sally territory. Can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way? One of those movie questions that doesn't really apply in the real world, but which gives this film its impetus. Wallace is as charming as can be, and he and Chantry (despite her idiotic name) are obviously made for each other – but there is Ben (Rafe Spall), a decent enough bloke, who is occupying the slot marked 'lover'. What's going to happen?

I'm assuming that you can answer that question for yourself, so it's really just a matter of how (and when) we get there. Comedy time is taken up with Wallace's best friend Allan (The irresistible Adam Driver), who has also found love (along with lust) with the equally full throttle Nicole, while Chantry's sister Dalia (who named these women?) is considering putting the moves on Wallace, since she's on the rebound, and needs to get her ex out of her system.

All of which probably sounds as awful as a hundred other romantic comedies with tinkly music and rather arbitrary barriers to true love, but there's something here that works. Radcliffe is endearing, credible and good value on screen. And while Zoe Kazan is as elfin-like as she was in Ruby Sparks, and although the pair of them have all the sexual chemistry of Marks and Spencer, she is equally endearing, likeable and you can't help rooting for true love to find its way.

And that's about all there is. 100 minutes pass pleasantly, we get to where we always knew we were going, and we can all go home with a rosy glow. I'm impressed with how well Daniel R has coped with his post-Hogwarts career. He seems willing to try pretty much anything, and has yet to make a fool of himself. He's aware that he is not the world's greatest actor, nor is ever likely to be, but he plays to his strengths, which include his face, his calmness, and most unexpectedly, that ability to seem like a real person.

You could do a lot worse for a night out with your girl/boy/friend.


Phil Raby 

Front Row Films 

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