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  • Writer's pictureNiamh O'Reilly

IF Movie Review

I must be an outlier in this regard, but I didn’t have an imaginary friend as a child. It wasn’t for a want of imagination, I had it by the bucket full and due to a large age gap between myself and my brother, I often played alone. Yet I don’t remember an imaginary friend. Perhaps I did have one, but I’ve just forgotten?

And this is exactly what lies at the heart of this magical and surprisingly impactful film, IF, from writer and director John Krasinski. The story follows 12-year-old Bea (Cailey Fleming), who some years after losing her mother to Cancer, moves back in with her grandmother, played by the amazing Fiona Shaw. The move is temporary, while her father (Krasinski) undergoes heart surgery for what’s referred to as a ‘broken heart.’ While there, Bea discovers that she can see everyone’s imaginary friends and with the help of Ryan Reynolds’ Cal and a host of voice talent such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr. and Steve Carell, embarks on a magical adventure to reconnect forgotten IFs (Imaginary Friends) with their kids.

I went in expecting the above synopsis and not much else. A by-the-numbers kids movie with an endless parade of fun characters voiced by big talent, that you can just see sitting on the shelves of Smyths as my children’s eyes light up wondering which one they could pester me to buy for them.

What I got was an emotional sucker punch to the gut I was not expecting.

The films opening prologue is akin to the opening of UP - if you're an adult who’s seen it and hasn’t welled up, what is wrong with you? IFs opener is in a similar vein, where we see the happy childhood Bea had filled with magic, dress up and imagination, thanks to her loving parents and grandmother. However, we see it slowly fade, through the prism of her mothers illness, and with every passing moment, a little more of Bea’s childhood ends.

When she comes back to her grandmothers apartment years later, she’s ready to forget childish things from her past. She puts her colours and crafts in the wardrobe and is ready to be a grown up, despite her father’s best efforts to keep things light and childlike for her, as he goes through his very serious surgery.

Things take a shift when one evening Bea hears noises coming from the upstairs apartment. The film switches gears here and for a while it has definite horror movie vibes to it. Shades of Guillermo Del Torro’s love of dark fantasy drip through, as Bea creeps up the stairs following the mysterious noises. She finds Ryan Reynolds’ Cal and the large furry purple creature named Blue voiced by Carell. They, along with Waller-Bridge’s Minnie Mouse style ballerina creature Blossom, are on a mission to reconnect with new children, after being forgotten by their now grown up ones.

However, what soon emerges is that it isn’t new kids these forgotten IFs need, it’s to find their now grown-up children, who as it turns out need them more in their adulthood.

And cue the tears from me. My seven-year-old asked me if I was crying? “No,” I told him, “I’ve… er… got popcorn in my eye.” I’m not sure he bought it to be honest.

Regardless, the emotional weight of the IFs realisation hit me harder than I was expecting. Yes, we create these magical games and friends in our heads as children, but once we grow up, we tend to forget these ‘silly things.’ But, in the often hard and uncompromising grown up world, who amongst us couldn’t have done with a shot in the arm from our every faithful IFs?

It's a beautifully shot film too and the music underpins the emotional message perfectly, there’s also a really fun music and dance number mid way through. The scene where Fiona Shaw reconnects with her IF, however, is one that stayed in my mind long after the credits rolled.

A beautiful mix of humour and heart, I thoroughly enjoyed this one perhaps even more than my seven-year-old who declared it was better than Wonka…. steady on my son!

IF hits cinemas from May 17.


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