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What If - DVD Review

What If?

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

MICHAEL Dowse’s What If has been hailed as the ‘smartest romantic comedy since 500 Days of Summer but while not quite in that league it remains a hugely engaging date movie in its own right.

Daniel Radcliffe stars as heartbroken medical school dropout Wallace who thinks he’s found the girl of his dreams in Zoe Kazan’s animator Chantry, only to learn she has a boyfriend (Rafe Spall) and is content just to be friends. Hence, the central age-old question: can a man and a woman ever be just friends without the issue of sex coming into play?

And while you don’t even have to be a rom-com virgin to guess where this particular film is heading, it’s tribute to the quality of Elan Mastai’s script and the winning nature of the central performances that What If holds you so successfully in its trance.

Radcliffe is on excellent form as Wallace, combining an easygoing everyman quality with the mounting desperation of someone being denied the girl of his dreams. But Kazan is just as good as Chantry, whose own slow realisation of her true feelings towards Wallace are believably played.

There’s strong support, too, from Spall as the boyfriend in the mix, who is more than just the token villain of the piece, and from Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis, as Wallace’s outspoken best friend and his girlfriend.

Dowse, for his part, also ensures there are plenty of engaging scenarios in which to place his protagonists, some of which boast a genuinely laugh-out-loud quality. Others, meanwhile, carry a potent sense of awkwardness that should resonate with anyone who has ever harboured a crush on a ‘friend’.

Just occasionally, the script veers towards the needlessly crass (various conversations about poo seem unnecessary), while some of the later insights about life and love are obvious and therefore preachy. And it’s during such moments that the film succumbs to the feeling of being generic.

But even so, What If does enough to keep you rooting for its two main protagonists and delivers the right kind of feel-good ending that is guaranteed to leave you with a big, goofy smile on your face. And that’s surely the benchmark for this kind of thing.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 102mins
UK DVD & Blu-Ray Release: February 9, 2015