Review: The F Word
The romantic comedy standard featuring inquisitive and uncertain twenty-somethings gets tweaked and twisted a bit in Michael Dowse’s exceptionally winning film The F Word. Written by Elan Mastai will plenty of care and consideration and set in Toronto, Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan delight in what could easily be a pedestrian outing – and one that strangely is being promoted as such.
The premise is simple enough: Boy meets girl, girl has boyfriend, boy pines from a far, girl maybe has feelings for boy. But what of current relationships and future careers? Wallace (Radcliffe) is said boy, a once-promising medical student who has finally emerged after a year of grieving the breakup of former girlfriend.
The girl meanwhile is Chantry (Kazan), the warm and energetic cousin of Wallace’s best friend Allan (Adam Driver). The two meet for the first time at a party, they get on swimmingly, and as the night proceeds and eventually comes to an end, the two agree to be friends. It’s a noteworthy moment because Chantry has a boyfriend of five years with whom she lives.
Curiously and indeed thankfully, The F Word lacks the cynicism and misogyny not only inhabited by so many films of its ilk, but also by its own promotion campaign. You see, Chantry doesn’t mislead Wallace on this fateful evening whatsoever, and whatever let down he experiences following this not-so-remarkable revelation is from his own wistful doing. They do truly agree, that is, mutually invest in being friends.
The F Word is friendship, but despite the selfish, sexist propagated notion that there is a dreaded friend-zone (one that Wallace would in theory be subject to), the film finds in Wallace a man who wants this woman in his life as a friend.
Thankfully too his confident Allan, often hysterical and no more the wise than Wallace, is not the typical sex-driven rube. Sure, he pushes that angle and his advice may not be the best, but he is not living in some fantasy land. Well, he submits to the craziness of love for sure.
What’s just as refreshing, Shantry’s boyfriend isn’t some caricature brute. So often does the female get stuck with some guy that only she thinks is great while the audience and doting hero scoff. Adam is a fine man in this film, and he has clearly won the support of Chantry and her friends. Unfortunately for Adam, his grown up job takes him out of the country, leaving time for friendship and beyond to blossom.
At its best, this film champions friendship, and during one of its climactic encounters, Wallace and Chantry confront the trust they had, their evolving feelings, and what to do next. The rest of the time, the charm and chemistry by Radcliffe and Kazan prevail over the pedestrian yet still earnest proceedings. Every once and a while, including during that oh so familiar rush-off-to-confess-to-the-one-you-love scene, we’re thrown for a bit of a loop.
It is after all a romantic comedy, and even when it slides into the norms and hits all the boxes, there exists a prevailing loveliness and novelty to everything taking place. It may in fact be a successful film only because it avoids beings cynical and demeaning, like so many other films of the genre. In the end, we are treated to something better than expected, one that doesn’t reinforce unhealthy gender norms, and just as nicely, delights and charms.