IF Review

Reviews Films
7

Critic

Have you or someone you love had an imaginary friend? Did you ever wish they were still around? IF (Imaginary Friends for those not in the know) explores how life is from the other side, how our imaginary pals feel when we grow up and move on. 

The first family film from director and actor John Krasinski, is a sharp departure from his previous works (A Quiet Place Part I and II) and is beautifully balanced between technicolour childhood dream sequences and poignant scenes as the characters deal with the impact of loss and grief at such a young age. This is mirrored by the interplay of the animated characters with their live human counterparts, which is at times clunky, but still allows for the absurdity that gives this film its unique atmosphere. 

We are introduced to Bea (played throughout the film by Cailey Fleming, but in the opening flashbacks by Audrey Hoffman) and her parents (Krasinski and Catharine Daddario) through a montage of joyous childhood home movies. As we watch, her life changes from living room Tina Turner karaoke with both mum and dad, to her mum’s hospital room. We look on as her mum becomes weak and drawn, then begins to cover her hair with a turban as presumably it has fallen out with chemotherapy. Eventually we are shown a closed door to symbolise her passing. It does seem heavy handed, but this is a film for children afterall. 

We push forward to a twelve year old Bea returning to the same apartment from the previous home videos. Then we meet her doddering granny (Fiona Shaw) who has brought her to New York to look after her while her father is in hospital awaiting an operation. While the finer details are never revealed, Krasinski jokes that it is for his ‘broken heart’. Ever the comedian, Krasinski’s character’s levity is contrasted with Bea’s anxiety and fear that she might lose another parent.  He urges her to enjoy her time in New York and to investigate the stories around her. Little does he know how literally she will take that. 

As she tries to appear mature and pushes away the reminders of her childhood in the apartment, she begins to discover the other inhabitants of the building – the imaginary friends and their human guardian Cal (Ryan Reynolds). There’s Blossom (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) – the retro ballerina with Betty Boop inspired eyes and insect-like features, Blue (voice by Steve Carell) – the kind but awkward fuzzy giant monster with a heart of gold, and many others that pop up along the way. They are looked after by Cal, a harried and crotchety caretaker who is trying to unite the IFs with new kids to bond with. 

Although she and Cal take some convincing – eventually Bea offers to help him on his quest. It might have been initially to distract herself from her father’s illness, by working with the IFs, Bea learns about the importance of creativity and how helpful child-like wonder can be to the present. Essentially she learns to be a kid again, embracing all the joy and fragility that it brings. 

Some parts of IF can stretch the imagination, and taste of the adults watching, it is incredibly engaging to younger viewers with a modern sound track and enough naff jokes to keep them giggling into their popcorn. It might not be a cult classic, and it might not be very original, but IF’s depth and honesty is refreshing and definitely worth a watch. 

7/10

7

Critic