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Featured Review

IF ★★★



Released: 17th May 2024

Directed: John Krasinski

Cast: Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Filmmaker John Krasinski moves away from the silent horror of A Quiet Place and its sequel to the colourful, vibrant world of IF. Whilst the results are less gobsmacking and not as memorable as that immense first film, Krasinski’s transition into more family-friendly fare is impressive—and adults will still get a decent amount from IF, whether it’s witty humour, stylish set pieces, or emotional resonance. IF might feel very predictable, and even though Krasinski’s sentimentality is so heavy-handed that it feels weaponised, it is difficult not to get caught up in this alluring, sweet story.

The synopsis of IF is familiar: 12-year-old Bea (Cailey Fleming), who lost her mother at a young age, starts to see people’s imaginary friends (“IFs” for short). This alternate universe is strikingly similar to the Toy Story series, whilst the angle of a child facing trauma (as well as the fluffy, cuddly figure of one IF called Blue) is not only an imitation of My Neighbour Totoro, but considerably weaker in execution too. Whilst this roteness feels tiring at the beginning, with the film’s slow setup contributing further to this weariness, it eventually gives way to a really pleasing experience.

As Bea is faced with another parental loss after her father (Krasinski) goes into hospital for surgery, she works with her neighbour Cal (Ryan Reynolds) to reunite former IFs with their former children. Fleming and Reynold’s relationship and chemistry is terrific; their relationship becomes workmanlike as they interview the various IFs, but also moves deeper into something more grounded in emotions as they get to know each other. Backing up the impressive duo at the heart of IF are a host of wildly creative IFs: none more so than Steve Carrell’s Blue, the purple, beaming face of the film’s promotional materials. Carrell’s voicework is a highlight of the film, as is the kind, unashamedly friendly character of Blue.

This strong character work extends into IF’s other production aspects, most notably Michael Giacchino’s sparkling original score and Janusz Kaminski’s cosy cinematography. We have come to expect great things from both men; the former giving us another score of inescapable emotion, whilst the latter imbues IF with a warm, welcoming hue that is so comforting. Kris Moran’s set design comes to the fore during the middle of IF in a glorious scene set in a retirement home for IFs. In fact, this is when IF comes alive fully, which makes the moments preceding it feel like a bit of a drag.

As IF hurtles gleefully towards its extremely predictable but wholly heart-warming conclusion, Krasinski struggles to keep the story cohesively tied together. Apart from the protracted setup, there is also a scattered feeling to the film in its latter stages. IF is obviously a markedly different film from A Quiet Place, but Krasinski shows little of the same tightness and efficiency that made his feature debut so entrancing. For all its flaws, however, there is something so endearing and comforting about IF for children and adults alike. Krasinski might bash us over the head with the emotions, but it is impossible not to have as good a time with IF as he clearly had creating it. 

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