Pages Navigation Menu



An interview with THE F WORD director, Michael Dowse.

If you haven’t already seen THE F WORD, the first full on romantic comedy by Canadian director, Michael Dowse (FUBAR, GOON), then you my friend are missing out on one of the most charming and endearing romantic comedies of the modern era. The film, which stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as newfound friends who might be far more than that in an alternate universe, is now available to rent or own, and Dowse was kind enough to speak with me about the film’s humble beginnings, the love letter the film writes to Toronto and whether or not he feels that boys and girls can actually be friends.

“I think they can. It’s up to the individuals. They might end up having sex at one point, just to get it out of the way though,” Dowse tells me, half joking, I think. “Just get the sex out of the way. Maybe you become buddies with benefits. It’s whatever people want at the end of the day.”

In THE F WORD (which outside of Canada is known as WHAT IF), Wallace (Radcliffe) meets Chantry (Kazan) at a party, as you do. Despite having entirely given up on the very notion of love after his heart was broken a year prior, Wallace is rather taken with Chantry. The two hit it off swimmingly right up to the moment where he walks her to her apartment door and she casually drops her boyfriend into the conversation, as you also do. What then? Do you attempt a friendship when you know you might want more? Or do you just forget about this person you connected so easily with? The answer is there is no easy answer whatsoever.


“Of course, a man and a woman can be friends, good friends, but I do think sex can cloud it up. A lot of times it does make it murky and stuff but yeah, I think it’s totally possible.”

Another thing that was totally possible was Dowse passing on this film, which he did at first. Dowse remembers, “It came to me a while ago. Six years ago, I was in the middle of madness in my own life, madness on another project. I think I probably sent a terse e-mail to the producer at the time, which I’m sure he looks at now and laughs.” Fortunately for both Dowse and for us, THE F WORD came around again at a much more opportune time. “When I was finishing GOON, we were doing reshoots, and one of the producers of GOON was aware of the script, and that it had a Canadian writer, and that it was a ‘Blacklist’ script, and it was good. He said I should take a look at it and see if it interested me because they were thinking of doing it. I read it and I just really loved the script. I loved a lot about it. It was a completely different movie for me.”

If you’ve seen GOON, then you know that Dowse has flirted with romantic comedy elements already but THE F WORD is unabashedly romantic, in that modern half cynical, half hopeful kind of way, of course. Dowse doesn’t see his latest venture as a full 180 compared to his previous works, but rather more just a progression in his career. “I feel like I’ve always supported romantic subplots in most things I do so it wasn’t outside my wheelhouse, but it was definitely a challenge to make it the entire film, to make such a kindler, gentler film. As a director, that was exciting to me; to do something where it was less about a caustic sense of humour or violence or getting drunk or high. The reaction has been great. People are surprised that I made a nice romantic comedy. The plan was to surprise people and show a bit of range as a director, flex a different muscle.”


Another surprise for audiences will be just how romantic the city of Toronto is in THE F WORD. As a non-native Torontonian, I have to say that the Toronto in this film is the closest I’ve seen on film to the way I see the city. “A caricature of these great romantic comedies is that they’re set in very specific places. I felt Toronto, the fact that we were shooting there in the middle of summer and it’s a beautiful, bucolic city with a ton of water, I thought it’s usually dealt with so coldly; I thought it was time for Toronto to be  given its due in terms of the romantic, metropolitan, international city that it actually is.”

Perhaps not so surprising is how natural Radcliffe and Kazan are together on screen. Their chemistry is key to making THE F WORD work, as according to Dowse, “It was by design to keep people guessing as to what would happen at the end.” You can’t manage that delicate balance without two talented actors who understand the nuances of human relationships though. Unfortunately, you can’t know that about the people you’ve cast for sure until you’re on the set. “[Daniel and Zoe] were very natural from the beginning. They’re both very smart and funny and warm and level headed people. When you’re casting, you make your best guesses and sit down and meet them both individually and get to know them and get a sense as to what they’re like as people. You just make a guess and hope it’s going to work out.  Once they were together in a room, they were amazing together.” Insert sigh of relief here.


Dowse is currently in between projects, having also written this year’s THE GRAND SEDUCTION. For now though, THE F WORD can find a whole new audience at home with this week’s Blu-ray release, something Dowse is fully accustomed to when it comes to getting his films out there. “That’s been the tradition with most of my films. They really find a new home when they hit home video, or whatever you call it these days.”

THE F WORD is available to rent or own now. Black Sheep Reviews is giving away 5 copies of THE F WORD on Blu-ray. Click here to enter the contest now. And don’t miss our 4-Sheep review of the film here!

Share Your Thoughts