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Film / The F Word

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The F Word (released as What If in the United States) is a 2013 Irish-Canadian romance comedy based on TJ Dawe and Michael Rinaldi's play Toothpaste and Cigars and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Megan Park, Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis and Rafe Spall.

Radcliffe plays Wallace, a former medical student who has been a recluse for the past year due to the breakup of a relationship, and is attending a party with his college roommate, Allan, played by Driver. While at the party, he meets Chantry (Kazan), a quirky girl who can keep up with him quip for quip. At the end of the night, he walks her home, gets her number... and learns that she has a boyfriend. He discards her number, but chance brings them back together, and they become good friends, much to the chagrin of her five year boyfriend, Ben (Spall), who's convinced that Wallace is just nosing around Chantry in the hopes of sex. Clandestinely, Wallace continues to lust after Chantry, agonizing over how he enjoys being her friend, but truly wants more.

Then, Ben accepts an opportunity to go to Dublin for a U.N. conference on copyright law, causing Wallace and Chantry to have to confront their feelings for each other, and whether they really can just be friends.

Has nothing to do with that F word.

This film exhibits the following tropes:

  • Amusing Injuries: Played straight and subverted. When Wallace goes to Ben and Chantry's apartment for dinner, Ben aggressively intimidates him about how he'd better not attempt to take Chantry away from him. All this while, Ben's been chopping up chili peppers for salsa. He then rubs his eyes without washing his fingers, and his eyes become painfully irritated. Wallace, who's keen to make a good impression, goes to the bathroom to get Chantry's contact lens solution to neutralise the pain, but when he emerges from the bathroom, his opening the door knocks Ben through a window and Ben falls a couple of floors to the sidewalk. It's hilarious, but Ben has to go to hospital, and spends the next while with a cast on his broken wrist.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: This film has it from the outset. At one early point, when Wallace and Chantry are at the beginning of their friendship, he mentions that he spent a lot of his early life in hospitals (because his parents are doctors.) Chantry replies, in a sympathetic tone, "Is it because of your multiple deformities?"
  • Book Ends: Begins and ends with Wallace on the roof of his sister's house, looking at the Toronto skyline; the second time, Chantry is up there with him.
  • Brick Joke: Early in the film, Chantry and Wallace exchange trivia about Fool's Gold Loaf and its connection with the Elvis legends. Near the end of the film, they surprise each other with parting gifts... homemade Fool's Gold. It also appears at their wedding reception.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Wallace's conversations inevitably go this way. One of the things that attracts him to Chantry is that she keeps up with him.
  • Distant Finale: The ending skips forward 18 months to Wallace and Chantry getting back from Taiwan and getting married.
  • The Door Slams You: Ben has gotten jalapeño in his eye and is in terrible pain. Wallace, wishing to help, goes to get contact lens solution from the bathroom, comes rushing back in to the living room, flings the door open—and hits Ben with the door, knocking him through an open window and onto the street.
  • Downer Beginning: The first scene shows a depressed Wallace deleting a breakup message from his girlfriend...that has been on his phone for 379 days.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Wallace and Chantry go on a beach excursion with Allan and his girlfriend, Nicole. Nicole and Allan decide to go skinny-dipping and Wallace and Chantry, deep in Unresolved Sexual Tension with each other, decide to join them. When they exit the water, they find out that Nicole and Allan have enacted this trope, taking with them the car and leaving a single sleeping bag. Chantry is distinctly not amused, feeling that it's not only very irresponsible (it's getting very cold), but also tantamount to sexual assault by forcing her and Wallace to sleep together naked.
  • Just Friends: Wallace and Chantry play out this trope through the majority of the film.
  • Large Ham: Allan's memetic line:
    "I just had sex and I'm about to eat NACHOS! IT'S THE GREATEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE!... Unless you screw it up with whatever it is you're about to say."
  • Love at First Sight: Allan is visibly taken with Nicole the moment she walks into his field of vision during the opening party scene. The attraction was mutual, as according to Nicole, "The night I met Allan I was so into him it wasn't until I woke up in his bed the next morning that I even remembered I already had a boyfriend." They end up Happily Married.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Subverted. Wallace talks about his ex-girlfriend Megan as if she's this, but when she shows up at the hospital, she's just an exhausted and overworked young doctor who feels bad for cheating on him, even if she doesn't want to get back together with him. He seems rather embarrassed about it.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: When Chantry shows up in Dublin, Ben shows up arm-in-arm with an attractive Brazilian coworker. There's no evidence against his assertion that it really is platonic.
  • No Antagonist: Some romcoms might make the Romantic False Lead either mean or boring, in order to stack the deck for the hero. In this film however, Ben is a perfectly nice guy and seems to really love Chantry; they simply grow apart.
  • Rom Com Job: Played straight with Chantry, who is an animator, and with Ben the Romantic False Lead who has a cool job with the United Nations, but interestingly averted with Wallace who has a dull job writing technical manuals. Lampshaded when Allan specifically points out how dull Wallace's job is when Wallace is confessing his feelings for Chantry.
  • Shout-Out: Wallace and Chantry meet for the second time at a theatrical screening of The Princess Bride.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Forcing Wallace and Chantry to sleep naked together in a sleeping bag turns out to be a horrible idea that greatly discomforts both of them and (temporarily) strains their friendship and their trust in Allan and Nicole.
    • Chantry and Ben are genuinely nice people whose relationship deteriorates due to growing apart from the long distance rather than either one of them being Mistaken for Cheating on the other.
  • Zip Me Up: The sexual tension between Wallace and Chantry starts ramping up in a scene where she makes the mistake of trying on a dress that's too small for her, gets stuck in it, and has to ask him to help her out.

Alternative Title(s): What If