TIFF 2013: Michael Dowse's 'The F Word' is Delightful Romantic Fun
by Alex Billington
September 10, 2013
In the delightful world of romantic comedies it's always hard to stay fresh when so many of them hit the big screen every year. But there's always one or two hidden gems to be found, and the latest one to appear in 2013 is Michael Dowse's The F Word. Playing at the Toronto Film Festival, this stellar romantic comedy stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan and addresses in a comically fun way the dreaded "f" word in relationships - "friend". It's very sweet, shot exquisitely around Toronto, and endearing in all the right ways. While it doesn't reinvent the romantic comedy wheel, it doesn't really need to. I enjoyed every second of it.
As one might expect, the film starts by introducing us to the two friends at the center of the story - Wallace (Radcliffe) and Chantry (Kazan) - at their very first meeting at a friend's party. Their relationship is complex as the two instantly connect, and quickly become friends, but continue to remain that way as Chantry has a boyfriend of five years (played by Rafe Spall). Each side has their own set of friends (including Adam Driver) both encouraging and discouraging their attempts to push them closer together or drift farther apart. The film does run across a few romantic comedy clichés with the typical chasing after her moments that obviously won't work out the way we want, but those are minor issues in an otherwise entertaining film.
Director Michael Dowse, whose last few TIFF films were completely different kind of features (Goon and Fubar), really sets himself apart here and takes a different route. The film has a cheerful attitude with an outstanding soundtrack of great songs that enhance the mood and fit perfectly with the scenes they're a part of. It's hilarious and the dialogue is witty and smart and moves fast. Part of what makes it work so well is the relationship between Kazan and Radcliffe, and how the two play so perfectly linked to each other. This establishes a great model for us to compare as the two navigate the ups and downs of the rest of their lives.
Dowse's The F Word is up there with truly memorable indie romantic comedies along the lines of 500 Days of Summer. It's set in Toronto and has a few quirky Canadian sensibilities, but that only adds to the overall experience. While the film may play better with younger generations, the comedy is never overwrought or overdone and is often just naturally hilarious without being an overt joke. On the sweeter side, the heart at the center of the film beats firmly and keeps the ever-so-important emotion at the forefront without being a burden. A delight in every way, The F Word is a fun romantic comedy gem that I recommend catching.
Alex's TIFF 2013 Rating: 9 out of 10
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