What If is not at all the film you expect it to be. Yes it does have fresh faced sorts Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan and the poster screams quirky rom-com but the film itself mostly manages to defy the genre conventions and create something a whole lot more memorable.
Mainly that’s down to the combination of cast and material. While Radcliffe has been spending most of his time in period garb and serious roles since finally finishing up with the Potterverse, it’s been clear for quite a while that he’s not only a capable actor but a very funny sort as well.
And this aspect of the actor blossoms wonderfully opposite the charming Kazan as bon mots fly and sarcasm gets wielded with almost physical force. It’s a much more acerbic flick than I was expecting, light on the bad language but still able to muster a cynicism and some sense of reality about human relationships which its glossier siblings couldn’t hope to match.
Basically unknown writer Elan Mastai adapted the screenplay from T.J. Dawe’s play Cigars and Toothpaste and he has a great ear for dialogue and exchanges that exist on that enjoyable cusp between clever and believable.
These elements are all solid in their own right but its director Michael Dowse who pulls it together brilliantly. He’s a master of tone, as he’s proven in the utterly barmy Goon, and deftly weaves different performances styles (like contrasting Radcliffe with ad-libbing Adam Driver) as well as adding elements of dreamy animation to make a film that manages to be surprisingly unique.
What If does head towards familiar territory towards the end but to my mind the characters and performers have earned this scintilla of schmaltz for their strong work in the rest of the film. A recommended watch, even if you have no love for the rom-com.