Directed by: John Krasinski
Written by: John Krasinski
Starring: Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Steve Carell
Released: May 16, 2024
Grade: C+


I didn’t expect to be saying this after first watching the rudimentary, family-friendly trailer… but IF is a befuddling filmgoing experience.  I’m not sure what to make of it.  Front and centre throughout is Bea (Fleming), a softly spoken young girl with good manners and impeccable handwriting.  The opening scenes provide limited insight into Bea’s current state – her mother passed away of cancer many years ago, her happy-go-lucky dad (Krasinski) about to undergo surgery for a heart condition, and she’s currently living in a beautiful New York City apartment with her welcoming grandmother (Shaw).

It’s upstairs in the apartment building that she befriends Cal (Reynolds), a man running a small business which tries to find new homes for imaginary friends, known by the acronym IF for short.  Each one of the IFs had a child at some point in their lives but as the kids’ aged, the IFs were soon dispensed and forgotten.  Sounds a little like Toy Story, right?  It is not immediately explained but Bea has the power to see the IFs (no one else can) and, with nothing better to do, she teams up with Cal and becomes part of his operations.

There’s a lot of elements I enjoyed.  From the detail in the apartment building (so much clutter) to a fantasy sequence at an IF living centre, the production values are terrific.  The music score of Oscar winning composer Michael Giacchino (Up) finds the right blend of light and heavy.  17-year-old Cailey Fleming (The Walking Dead) is very good as Bea and I love the simplicity and delicacy she brings to the characters.  There’s also fun to be had in identifying the array of Hollywood A-listers who provide quick cameos in voicing the imaginary friends.

But what does it all add up to though?  Folks talk about imagination, artistry, and storytelling but is there supposed to be a deeper theme here which passed me by?  The IFs seemed to be having a decent time on their own so why did they so desperately want to connect with kids again?  There are no villains, there’s very little in the way of tension, and the important relationship between father and daughter is not given enough attention.  There are moments where it feels like an episode of Sesame Street with its lengthy comedic skits about weird looking creatures getting into mischief.  With a staggeringly high budget of $110 million USD (not sure how), I’m not clear on the film’s target audience.

Writer-director John Krasinski (A Quiet Place) is a talented filmmaker but IF feels like a mishmash of ideas which looked good on paper… but don’t come together on screen.  Tred carefully with this one.