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MOVIE REVIEW: The faulty metaphor that plagues the family-friendly film ‘IF’

Wanggo reviews John Krasinski's family-friendly film "IF"

There are several structural problems that is plaguing John Krasinski’s latest writing and directing effort, the family friendly ‘IF,’ which kind of makes the film feel like a major misfire from the filmmaker behind the brilliant ‘A Quiet Place.’ While the latter film was so cohesive in terms of its metaphor and the family dynamics, ‘IF’ suffers from a lack of any real backstory that can ground the characters to a plot line that can make you feel like the story is getting somewhere. It doesn’t help that the aforementioned IFs – an acronym for Imaginary Friend – plays out like a metaphor that isn’t representing anything really clear.

‘IF’ is about a young girl, Bea (Cailey Fleming), who goes to live with her grandmother (the brilliant Fiona Shaw) while her father (John Krasinski) prepares for an undefined operation. Bea has already lost her mom to what looks like cancer, so she is guarded, reserved; putting up a brave front. But while living in her grandmother’s apartment (where she grew up as a kid), she begins to see imaginary friends, animated beings who have been abandoned by their kids when they grew up. Her new neighbor, Cal (Ryan Reynolds) can also see them and together, they try to find new kids for the imaginary friends to bond to so that they don’t “disappear” or go away.

With a cast that includes such big names like Ryan Reynolds and John Krasinski, plus the voice acting of people like Steve Carrell, Emily Blunt, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sam Rockwell, and so many others; while wrapped up in the tender genre of a built-for-children family drama with lots of CGI characters, you’d think that this would be a sure-fire hit that would be impossible to not get right.

But there are a lot of holes that doesn’t quite get answered by this film that stops it from finding its stride. So, if the imaginary friends are all cut out from their kids because they grew up, how come those who are children now don’t seem to have any of their own? While Bea goes to visit her father at the hospital, she meets Benjamin (Alan Kim), who is recovering from an accident. He doesn’t have his own imaginary friends and becomes a potential new child to bond with the older IFs. But how come the current children don’t seem to have any?

And then, despite moving back to New York City, Bea can enter and leave her grandmother’s house without any fanfare. I’ve never been to New York, but I find it so distant from reality that a young girl could walk around the city streets – sometimes at night – without any adult situation in these scary, and dangerous times. Much more, with a stranger she just met that week. Sure, it’s Ryan Reynolds, but he’s a grown man who can also see IFs. 


We don’t know much about Bea and her dad and her mom, though we understand by the implications of flashbacks and quick montages that the loss of the mom had a profound effect on her. It’s why Bea seems so mature and old at the start of the movie. She echoes Ryan Reynold’s Cal in the way he seems so bothered or frustrated by this whole IF business but the moment she is introduced into their world, she suddenly makes a 180 degree turn and does a full-on dance number (to a Tina Turner song) that includes all the abandoned IFs and to annoy Cal even more. It’s tiny shifts like these that create an inconsistency of character and plot that pervades throughout the film that does not allow it to land any of its emotional moments.

In fact, there’s an overuse of a lovely score by Michael Giacchino that relentlessly plays over everything, trying to underscore what should be emotional moments but they don’t quite get there.

Other than the inconsistency, the biggest issue is that the Imaginary Friends are supposed to serve as a metaphor for never losing your inner child – something that can be related to Bea’s father’s inability to take anything seriously – and while that makes for a good premise of a movie; the imaginary friends and their goal for finding new kids to connect with doesn’t quite figure into the overall theme the movie is trying to push. When the theme finally does come through, the whole story pivots but it doesn’t really play out the rewards and consequences of this realisation in any significant manner. There’s a lot of happiness and congratulating happening – as one would expect as the film serves as a family-friendly affair – but we don’t know why, and we don’t know what for.

At a hundred and four minutes, close to two hours, this movie never managed to find its stride and never really managed to pin down their characters or the world-building to a place that allows you to enjoy what is happening. For a filmmaker who managed to score a home run in his first outing with ‘A Quiet Place,’ I feel the marketing may have been too generous with its hyperboles when they were selling this movie. This isn’t the charming little family comedy it’s dressed up to be.

My Rating:

IF is now showing. Check screening times and buy tickets here.

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