Daniel Radcliffe plays a Brit who speaks in the sort of nauseating, elongated prose accustomed to Brits acting in North American movies. He encounters Chantry (Zoe Kazan) at a party, who’s already got a boyfriend (Rafe Spall) and they uneasily decide to become just friends, shaking hands on the arrangement.
What if you meet the right person at the wrong time in your life, poses the trailer. Or what if Daniel Radcliffe had any sense of comic awareness and didn’t look like he was trying so awfully hard. What if the script’s jokes didn’t fall on deaf ears (not just mine, most of the packed cinema) and what if it wasn’t all so polished and glib that it actually showed some sort of personality.
What If is inoffensive and pastel coloured. Everything works to soften its palette, from the twinkly pretty soundtrack to the harmless, melancholy pretty boy. Its characters come across as competitive reciters of petty idioms, fighting to see who can come out with the more clever ironic quip about love and life. Clearly someone’s been watching the Before… films but without the elegance to follow through. It’s exhausting to be a bystander in this relationship. Chanty works as an animator and so director director Michael Dowse changes scenes with cutesy animations of her drawing in order to showcase the film’s quirkiness, in the displaced belief that the film possesses a sense of whimsy. Our protagonists meet by writing fridge magnet poetry. How cute is that?
What If? is out on 20th August in the UK and out now in the US. Running time 102 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).
Review by David Rank