Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver
Boy meets girl at a party; they have an instant connection that catches each of them off guard; girl slips it casually into conversation with boy that she actually has a boyfriend before the night is over. We are all familiar with this scenario. In fact, a great deal of us have lived through this exact scenario. The boy wonders why the universe put this girl on his path if she wasn’t actually available, while the girl doesn’t want to miss out on making a new friend just because she’s already in a relationship. Neither party is necessarily wrong or ill-intentioned but both parties know deep down that it won’t work out well for anyone involved. As familiar as this premise is, THE F WORD, by Canadian director, Michael Dowse (GOON), feels fresh and original, as though this is the first time a boy and a girl have ever found themselves in this position.
The boy and the girl in question here are played by Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. Radcliffe plays Wallace, a medical school drop out who has been moping around for months following the breakup with the girl he thought he would spend his life with. Kazan plays Chantry, an animator who is quite content with her life the way it is and doesn’t want it to change at all. Together, they are completely charming. Their chemistry is what sells THE F WORD as a story that is still worth telling despite it already having been told so many times before. Both of these young actors show a deep understanding of their characters’ plights and that insight grounds the picture in reality. Of course, the words that flow so naturally out of their mouths help to establish this believability as well, thanks to Elan Mastai’s endearing and often laugh out loud funny screenplay. The entire ensemble, which also includes Adam Driver (HBO’s “Girls”) and Rafe Spall (LIFE OF PI), bring a seemingly effortless, improvisational quality to the script, which inspires a great deal of caring from the audience. Meanwhile, the Toronto setting made me wish I could walk down the streets of the city I call home and run into these incredibly likeable people.
Many see THE F WORD as a departure for Dowse. The director got his start back in 2002 with the Canadian cult favourite, FUBAR, and yes, this is a very different film than that one. All the same, the tenderness and sweetness that Dowse captures so easily here was hinted at in his last film, GOON, so this feels more like progress to me than a drastic change of pace. Regardless, THE F WORD, which refers to “friend” in this particular case, is an incredibly easy film to fall in love with. Dowse has tapped into the moment brilliantly, capturing how difficult it is to find love in a world where cynicism devours romance more often than not. As a single person myself, he inspired hope in me, which is hard to come by in these hardened times. Finding hope in today’s dating scene, and finding relevance in a genre so many people have fallen out of love with, are incredible feats, which makes THE F WORD Dowse’s best film to date.