As a Generation Y version of When Harry Met Sally, Michael Dowse’s What If is perhaps best viewed as a zeitgeist document ventilating not only the old question of whether friendship is possible when love gets in the way (and vice versa) but also whether anybody is still interested in that whole scenario.
Dowse makes an interesting case: Wallace (Radcliffe) is a med-school dropout who despairs of finding true love until he meets Chantry (Kazan) at a party. She’s his best mate’s cousin with a long-term boyfriend, so Radcliffe’s innate British-ness is paradigmatic for restraint and decency whilst Kazan charms both him and us as a ditzy graphic artist who wants a friend to help fend off career choices. With obvious nods to its iconic predecessor this cute-meets-sharp pairing plays out well, although there’s little actual confrontation between the ideologies of sex and companionship. Whether this boils down to directorial negligence or (hopefully) an accurate observation of the EasyJet crowd’s carpe diem dithering is not entirely clear. But one thing is: Rob Reiner’s Harry and Sally seemed to have (and want) a conventional long-term shot. Just one generation later and that happy end tastes rather stale. Food for thought.
What If | Directed by Michael Dowse (USA 2014) with Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan. Starts April 9
Originally published in issue #137, April 2015