IF review: John Krasinski's uplifting family movie will make your heart sing

IF review: John Krasinski’s uplifting family movie will make your heart sing

We’ve had two (very different) movies about imaginary friends already this year. How does John Krasinski’s IF stack up? Our review…

Did you ever have an imaginary friend? Were they made up of real-life bits and pieces or were they totally the product of your imagination? For many of us when we were younger, for whatever reason, imaginary friends were as big a part of our upbringing and childhood memories as our families, but their uniqueness made them special and allowed many of us to be ourselves or to deal with something when it felt like we didn’t have a way. Surprising, then, that’s it taken so long for a film to tackle the subject and, with this being Hollywood, we get two in the same year. Jeff Wadlow’s Imaginary went down the scary route but in John Krasinski’s IF, we go down the magic, colourful, uplifting route that will make your heart sing, your imagination soar and your own memories come flooding back.

After experiencing personal trauma in her childhood, young Bea (Cailey Fleming) moves in with her Grandmother (Fiona Shaw) whilst her father (Krasinski) is undergoing surgery and struggles to reconnect with her despite their closeness in her younger years. In her new surroundings, she stumbles across what she believes to be another teenager when, in fact, what she is seeing isn’t human, but an ‘IF’ – an imaginary friend of a child who has now grown up and forgotten about it. Upon meeting her new upstairs neighbour Cal (Ryan Reynolds), Bea discovers that she now has the ability to see countless unwanted IFs, and decides to help Cal in reuniting them with their former friends, many of whom are now adults.

It might seem strange for Krasinski as a filmmaker to jump from his two biggest successes – A Quiet Place and its sequel – to a more lighthearted, primarily family-orientated film but what made those two efforts so powerful was the brilliant balancing act of the horror elements and the story of a family coming together to deal with the most unlikely of events around them and their power as a collective. Much of which flows almost effortlessly into IF. Full of heart and soul as well as thoughtful themes of loss, coming-of-age, growing pains, and the demise of imagination in a digital world, it almost feels like it works too well at times, but such is Krasinski’s smart, astute, energetic story that it’s nearly impossible not to fall under its spell. It does ever so slightly overstay its welcome with a perfunctory side story and a runtime that stretches the concepts just a little too much, but its charm and grace are too strong to even let a few quibbles derail its enchantment.

Smartly, too, the writer-director has filled his film with tremendous talent both in front of and behind the camera, not least in his three wonderful leading turns. After stints as young Rey in Star Wars and young Sylvie in Loki, Fleming produces a star-making turn of maturity and courage as Bea alongside Reynolds’ usual stylish comedic charm tornado, as he embraces a lighter role embracing a lighter role before his return as Deadpool later this summer, while the ever fabulous and splendid Fiona Shaw adds her inimitable charm to the already utterly engaging mix. Backed up by the incredible animation work of Framestore and many other filmmakers who have helped create the wonderous characters of the IF world, and the comedy vocal talents of Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and the late Louis Gossett Jnr, as well as a plethora of high-profile voice cameos, this vibrant, exhilarating and deeply poignant adventure is utterly irresistible on every level.

IF will be released in cinemas on 17 May