Even the good movies about young romance—the indie ones that don’t include A-list actors and that feature quirky hipster characters instead of soulless yuppies—generally manage to be at least a little bit annoying. They can be funny, and they can feature good acting, but they’re still usually a little too precious for their own good, and they’re still usually a little too pleased with how clever and above the rest of the rabble they are to really resonate. What If is that movie exactly. It’s clever enough to get some laughs out of you, and it stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, who are strong enough actors to get you invested in the romantic destinies of their characters, but it’s still just your typical indie-leaning romantic comedy. It’s so precious that it will make you roll your eyes just as often as it makes you laugh, its main characters trade quips and banter so incessantly that it comes off as being slightly smug, and it still employs enough rom-com clichés that it can’t really be considered any real alternative to its mainstream counterparts.
“Let’s go swimming.”
“But we don’t have any bathing suits…”
The story is a step more interesting than the usual boy and girl get together, boy and girl hit a snag and break up, and then boy and girl have a reunion at the airport tale, which helps. Radcliffe plays a lad named Wallace who has recently had his heart broken, Kazan plays a girl named Chantry who he meets at a party, and Rafe Spall plays Chantry’s boyfriend Ben, whose existence puts a crimp in any plans for this movie to be a romance. Given their clear connection, is it possible for Wallace and Chantry to be platonic friends without his single status and her taken status making things weird? Clearly not, and you can probably see where this whole situation is heading, but director Michael Dowse (who also made the amazing Goon) and credited writers T.J. Dawe, Michael Rinaldi, and Elan Mastai at least give the situation a thorough and nuanced exploration. Nobody is really a villain and nobody is really a victim, valued friendship between the sexes is never treated as an impossibility due to sexual complications and it’s also never treated as the way things should be if we could just rise above trivial desires. The situation is muddy, the decisions the characters make are complicated, and there’s only once or twice where somebody acts dumb and out of character just so some drama can be injected into the story.
That those things do happen a couple of times is a problem, but because Radcliffe and Kazan are good, and because they’re supported by actors as charming as Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis, and because the movie has the good sense to build up to a big climactic moment in the central relationship and then get out quick, it never completely derails itself. Overall, this is a decent pick for the next time you’re looking to indulge in a new cinematic romance, which, if you’re either a teenage girl or as generally weepy as me, is probably pretty often.