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THE F WORD (review)

f wordTHE F WORD (AKA WHAT IF)
Written by Elan Mastai
Directed by Michael Dowse

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.

f word

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.

4 sheep

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give The F Word?

4 Comments

  1. Having read your review, I now wished I hadn’t wimped out because of the weather and went to the Friday night screening I had a ticket for! That being said, I now question the validity of TIFF’s Top 10; how can a work that’s still in progress be deemed Top 10? All credibility with the TIFF lists is now questionable. It would be like the N.Y.Times reviewing that a book and stating it is the best of the year and…oh yeah…only read half of it and the author still isn’t sure how he wants to end it!!!

    • Thanks for reading and do see the film when it eventually comes out this year. To be fair to TIFF and the director, the version that played at the festival and that was ultimately awarded a place in Canada’s Top 10 was finished. It is just that the film was bought by an American distributor at TIFF and the film is now testing with a new ending. It was originally shot for the film but Dowse went with the TIFF cut. The distributor is asking to test the new ending and title but the film was “finished” when it was considered for this list.

  2. Good review. Will be looking out for this when it has its theatrical release.

  3. Joseph – re your reply above, has the movie been tampered with since its TIFF debut? Inquiring minds want to know!

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