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May 17, 2024 / Paramount Pictures Canada

Starring: Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett, Jr., Alan Kim, Liza Colón-Zayas, Steve Carell, Awkwafina, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon

Directed By: John Krasinski

From writer and director John Krasinski, IF is about a girl who discovers that she can see everyone’s imaginary friends — and what she does with that superpower — as she embarks on a magical adventure to reconnect forgotten IFs with their kids. IF stars Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, and the voices of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr. and Steve Carell alongside many more as the wonderfully unique characters that reflect the incredible power of a child’s imagination.

Written By Darren Zakus

Rating 4 out of 5

IF will bring alive your inner child in this beautiful film from John Krasinski that features a remarkable musical score from Michael Giacchino and a truly wonderful cast led by a terrific performance from Cailey Fleming, that is bound to take audiences of all ages on a magical, heart warming and soulful adventure that you won’t soon forget.

If you ever wondered what a live action Pixar film would be like, your answer has been found with IF. For his last two films, John Krasinski has left audiences speechless in fear with A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place: Part II, but for his next film, Krasinski is once again heading into uncharted territory as a filmmaker: family films. His latest film is set around imaginary friends and boasts a star studded cast including Ryan Reynolds, Steve Carrell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge Fiona Shaw and the late Louis Gossett Jr. to name a few, and once again Krasinski has made a film that showcases his versatility as a storyteller. From the second the film begins, his vision comes to life as the emotion and wonder of the story introduces audiences to unforgettable characters and takes them on a delightful journey, while evoking a Spielbergian magic that proves that Krasinski is one of the best actors turned directors working in the industry today.

So many individuals had an imaginary friend growing up, but what happens to these friends once their children grow up? That is the central idea of IF, which follows Bea who discovers she can see these imaginary friends (or as they refer to themselves IFs) and sets out on an adventure to reconnect these IFs with their children. What ensues is a touching film that will move audiences of all ages as Krasinski connects with the inner child in every viewer. The themes of growing up, imagination, following your dreams, and loss are woven together within a beautiful narrative that features laugh out loud moments and scenes that will leave you awestruck with the wondrous characters you meet and places you visit in the film, and ones that will connect with you on an emotional level. Each IF that you meet is instantly memorable with their varied personalities and comedic routines, while Bea and her father instantly relate to audiences on a deeper level. The first act introduces audiences to the world of IFs and awakens your imagination, and while the narrative direction Krasinski is taking for the film overall is not evident in the second act, the third act more than makes up for it as his endgame becomes clear. By the time the film enters the final act, emotions are running high for both Bea and the audience, which is sure to initiate the waterworks for the viewers as Krasinski sticks the landing with this beautiful family drama, creating an ending that is as memorable and moving as some of the genre’s best films. While the film is targeted towards family with young kids, with a more narrative driven story that requires the audience to pay attention as Krasinski builds this world and lays the groundwork for the emotional final act, viewers under the age of eight will struggle with the slower pace, but anyone above that age should be totally engrossed by the film and left in absolute awe by the time the credits begin rolling.

The success of IF rises and falls on the actor in the role of Bea, and the film is so lucky to have Cailey Fleming in that role because she is nothing short of incredible. Fleming possesses a presence on camera that demands your attention as her youthful, infectious and joyful energy takes over as the audience meets the IFs and discovers the world through her character. Each moment she shares with the IFs is sweet, but many of them have a tenderness in which she conveys an understanding of life far beyond her age. This all builds to Fleming’s show-stopping monologue in the film’s final act which is an emotionally vulnerable and disarming moment that proves that she is a bona fide star, single handedly embodying Krasinski’s vision while emotionally devastating the audience in a single scene. Needless to say, Hollywood needs to start casting her in everything. The voice performances of the IFs are all magnificent, with each actor finding a fun personality trait to build within their character to ensure that their limited screen time creates a memorable character for audiences to instantly fall in love with. It’s a joy to see Steve Carrell back in a more comedic role as Blue and his voice truly lights up the screen, while Emily Blunt and Sam Rockwell are great in their limited amount of screentime as Unicorn and Guardian Dog. The casting of the late Louis Gossett Jr. as Lewis, the older bear IF who watches over the rest of the IFs, is pitch perfect, utilizing Gossett Jr.’s wisdom and comforting voice to create this wise character that can only be described as a perfect role to be one of his last. Krasinski himself is a ray of sunshine as Bea’s father, never failing to deliver a heartfelt moment while on camera, and Alan Kim continues to prove himself a true treasure as Benjamin. The only weak link of the cast is Ryan Reynolds as Cal. When the script calls for it, Reynolds does some wonderful work that shows that he is more than just a comedic actor, but for too much of the film he is doing his usual gag filled routine and it sadly falls a little flat compared to the high standard set by the rest of the film.

Beyond the performances and screenplay, there is true movie magic at work to bring to life Krasinski’s vision. The visual effects used to bring the IFs to life are great, mixing CGI and stuffed animals used on set as reference points for the actors. It allows for each of these magical and adorable characters to be brought alive in front of your eyes with a lifelike nature and wondrous quality that sparks the viewer’s imagination. Janusz Kamiński, Steven Spielberg’s go to cinematographer, shoots the film and infuses the film with a cinematic flair to match Krasinski’s writing and direction. From the many longer shots of Bea using her imagination to transform the IF’s retirement home which ends in a dance number, aged home videos with a warm and rustic quality, incredibly use of light and shadows throughout the film, to wide shots that capture the scale of the story, it’s one gorgeous film to get lost in. The film’s soundtrack is full of some golden hits from musicians such as Tina Turner, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, each capturing the heart of the scene their music plays out in, while each song has a personal connection to Bea. But it is Michael Giacchino’s musical score that is the standout of the entire film. Deeply emotional as well as possessing a curious, youthful energy that matches Bea’s imagination and the world of the IFs, Giacchino’s score is truly masterful and captures the amazement of the story at every turn with a blissful whimsical energy, while also helping to elevate the overwhelming emotion of the film’s final act to ensure that Krasinski’s messaging moves everyone who watches the film.

There is so much to take in while watching IF that it's hard to truly see everything John Krasinski is doing as a writer and director, but upon close examination it is evident that he is a master of his craft. Not only does he tell a beautiful and deeply moving story full of wonderful characters and important themes, but it’s told with a cinematic eye that creates an experience that whisks audiences away on a transformative journey with a craftsmanship not often seen in the family genre. John Krasinski’s imagination runs free throughout IF in this touching film about growing up and keeping that childhood spark of imagination alive that hits all the right emotional notes and will leave audiences in tears thanks to a heartfelt screenplay, memorable voice performances for the IFs and an outstanding leading turn from Carley Fleming, and a sensational score from Michael Giacchino that makes for another hit film for Krasinski.

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