Med-school drop out Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) is living with his sister and nephew while he mourns the end of his relationship after he catches his girlfriend cheating on him at work. His friend and college roommate Allan (Adam Driver) finally gets Wallace to attend a party and it’s there that Wallace meets Allan’s cousin Chantry (Zoe Kazan). The two hit it off instantly and they walk home together, where Wallace finds out Chantry is living with her long time boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall). Chantry laments that it’s been incredibly hard to meet friends, especially male friends because they don’t seem to have any interest in friendship once they find out she has a boyfriend. Wallace insists he’s capable of being her friend without romantic interest, and the two begin to spend more and more time together – platonically. Of course, over time it’s quite clear that Wallace is in love with Chantry, and maybe she has feelings for him too. Just as in When Harry Met Sally, and countless other friends to lovers rom-coms, What If asks if it is truly possible for men and women to be friends without involving sexual or romantic feelings.
One thing I enjoyed about this movie was it didn’t throw Wallace and Chantry into a “friends with benefits” trope only to have them both fall in love with each other. Clearly there is an attraction between them when they meet, but they agree to become friends, and they become friends. We get to watch that particular relationship build and become something meaningful. While you pretty much know the ending you’re going to get, What If does a great job at making you doubt the happy ending. Chantry honestly seems quite happy with Ben, who may be a little suspicious of Wallace’s intentions, but he’s not a jerk to Chantry, or a sleazeball. He has to be the kind of guy Chantry would have been believably in love with for five years. A real obstacle for Wallace and Chantry’s future.
Along for the ride is Allan and Nicole (Mackenzie Davis), a party goer who Allan meets at the same party where Wallace and Chantry also met. Allan and Nicole’s blossoming relationship is in direct contrast to Wallace and Chantry. The two are instantly attracted and their relationship forges ahead quite quickly, and passionately. Honestly, Adam Driver is hilarious in this movie. He’s there to give Wallace blunt advice, but he also carries a lot of the comedic weight.
I truly loved the script. The dialogue was so fun and sharp, and Radcliffe and Kazan had plenty of chemistry to keep me invested in their story. It also had a wonderful score and soundtrack, and I downloaded most of it after watching What If again for this review. I believe this is the only rom-com Daniel Radcliffe has starred in, which is a shame. I’ve always found him to be a good actor, and quite charming. He chooses some incredibly quirky roles, which is great, but I can’t lie, I do hope he stars in another romance sometime soon. Kazan is also one of my favorite actresses, and I think I could watch her in just about anything. What If came out in 2013 and I don’t think it gets the recognition it deserves in the genre. I think it balances originality with some expected rom-com tropes quite well, and while it’s definitely not on the level of When Harry Met Sally, I think it excels in nearly capturing the same genuine, hopeful feel as the classic. It’s definitely one of the better “friends to lovers” movies of the past decade.