IF review | John Krasinski’s family film is as tragic as is it heartwarming

IF review
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John Krasinski swaps horror for family adventure with his latest directorial effort. Here’s our IF review. 

2018’s A Quiet Place wasn’t the first film John Krasinski, best known back then as Jim in the US version of The Office, directed, but it was the one that made him a director to watch. A Quiet Place and its 2020 sequel were both tense, thrilling horror flicks which proved Krasinski was adept at both storytelling and mastering the technical side of filmmaking. 

IF, at first, seems to diverge from Krasinski’s previous work. It’s a big, boisterous family film with CGI creatures and Ryan Reynolds. The trailers felt miles away from the taut, precise filmmaking seen in Krasinski’s previous work as a director. What the trailers didn’t quite sell was just quite heartfelt and genuine IF is.

Cailey Fleming plays Bea, a young girl who is staying with her grandmother (Fiona Shaw) while her dad (Krasinski) is in the hospital. Bea begins to see magical, bizarre creatures, including Blue (Steve Carell), a huge, purple, furry… thing. These “things” are the titular IFs, imaginary friends who have been forgotten by their kids, who no longer can see them. 

Bea’s neighbour Cal (Reynolds) can also see the IFs, and together the pair try to pair the forgotten critters to new kids. Expect dancing, a bit of singing and a whole lot of heart. 

IF ryan reynolds
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Granted, the premise described above might not be enough to convey just how charming the film is, and there are a lot of plot details we’re purposely not revealing here. IF adopts and nails a childlike imagination, something we could all use a little more of. There’s real magic here, and IF is a film which never talks down to its younger audience. 

IF has an unexpected maturity to it which might make the film harder to access for younger viewers. But there’s something to be said for a film aimed at children which treats them as individuals with real-life issues that are just as important and big as adult problems. 

Read more: The making of IF with John Krasinski and Cailey Fleming | In Film Junior Issue 17, on sale here

There’s some very hefty themes here too. Bea’s life is not short on hardship and tragedy, but crucially, Krasinski never dwells on it unnecessarily. It’s a part of Bea’s life, but her life is also full of love, joy and she proves to be a very resourceful, committed young woman. Fleming carries the film on her shoulders admirably, too. She’s a charismatic, charming presence on screen, consistently overshadowing Deadpool himself. 

Reynolds doesn’t give a bad performance, but the script slightly lets down his character, Cal. The actor-turned-football-club-entrepreneur has crafted himself a very specific screen persona, which feels a little watered down in IF. He is at his strongest in the more comedic beats, and there’s a particularly nice moment at the very end of the film, but as a supporting player, Reynolds feels a little uncertain of himself and his acting abilities. 

IF’s plot feels a little disjointed at times. This might be an intentional creative choice on Krasinski’s part, a way to immerse us in Bea’s confused mind, but we find out very few things about our characters. In fact, I only caught Cal’s name in the last third of the film or so. It almost feels like there’s a longer cut of IF with more detail in it. 

Despite its flaws, though, there’s no denying IF's emotional power. It’s the same power that explains why A Quiet Place was such a triumph; at the heart of it, it was a film about grief and family, not about monsters. There’s similar heart in IF and you might very well find yourself needing tissues by the end. I know I did. 

The ending will likely hit you like a ton of bricks, in the best way possible. You might be able to figure out where things are going, but the sheer sincerity with which Krasinski treats Bea’s story is staggering. With A Quiet Place, Krasinski proved himself to be a clever filmmaker. With IF, he proves he’s one of the most emotionally intelligent and tuned-in mainstream filmmakers working today. 

IF is in cinemas 17th May. 

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