REVIEW: IF.... only the rest had been as good as the ending!

IF (Paramount Pictures)IF (Paramount Pictures)
IF (Paramount Pictures)
IF (104 mins), (U), Cineworld Cinemas

From writer and director John Krasinski, IF is one of those slightly irritating films that redeem almost all their failings in a magical final ten minutes to end up offering something really quite special.

For the most part, it’s a film a little bit too full of its own sense of wonder, a film far too much in awe of its own cleverness. Plus, it’s certainly far too slow to get going. And if I were actually the age it is aimed at, I would have given up long before it actually starts to get interesting. There is a baffling obscurity to most of it – however wonderful it is to look at.

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But it the end, thank goodness, it’s a film which really does say something about grief and love and moving on. It’s probably best to leave it at that. Think about it all too much afterwards, and you will realise all the ways it breaks its own rules, the weird logic it has set up governing the even weirder world it offers. The logic goes out the window with that ending.

And yet… that ending. In its closing moments it’s a film that makes absolutely stunning use of the sublime Ooh La La, the great Ronnie Lane/Ronnie Wood co-write which was one of the great undersung achievements of those underrated scallywags The Faces. Oh, and we also get L-O-V-E, that Nat King Cole classic, beautifully positioned and yet always so good to hear anytime, anywhere.

As for the story, it’s the tale of a young girl Bea – a really superb performance from Cailey Fleming – who discovers, after the death of her mother, that she can see the IFs (imaginary friends) that everyone else has discarded simply by growing up. Marshalling them all is the oddest of ring-masters, Cal (Ryan Reynolds), a human who’s somehow got caught up in the mix, reluctantly pandering to the separation anxieties of all the rejected imaginary BFFs.

Bea’s new superpower emerges thanks to the the fact that her dad is in hospital with a broken heart, which we are presumably supposed to take literally as well as figuratively. It’s the double whammy. He’s trying to put a brave and funny face on grief even as he awaits heart surgery. No wonder Bea’s own anxieties go through the roof, opening the door to her suddenly seeing all the unseen IFs (imaginary friends) all around her. And it’s in that spirit that she decides to help Cal match them up to a few of the grown-ups from whose minds the passage of time has booted them.

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The premise is intriguing but it’s a film which starts too slowly and then slumps in the middle – before the turn-around ending which leaves you wondering why it wasn’t all this good. There’s plenty of imagination in the huge range of imaginary friends that Bea encounters but mostly they are, well, just a little bit annoying. Presumably considerably less so if you are actually the right age for the film. But the long underground sequence seems exactly that: long. You just wish the film would pick up the pace and let you in a little more into what on earth is actually happening. It does in the end, and it does so brilliantly, but ultimately the ending simply underlines the fact that it is a mixed bag of a movie… with just possibly a few too many echoes of Toy Story.