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TV & Film

‘IF’: A Heartfelt Tribute To Your Inner Child

Reconnect with your imaginary friend by watching IF.

The IF characters walking through a hallway.
Paramount Pictures

IF is a 2024 family film, released on May 17th. Written and directed by John Krasinski, the story follows a young girl who has the ability to see imaginary friends, and sets off on the mission to reunite them with their original owners. The film encompasses a star-studded cast, including Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Steve Carell, Fiona Shaw, and more. While children are the primary audience for the film, the story can be appreciated by people of all ages, as it allows viewers to reconnect with their inner child.

IF Background

John Krasinski created the film for his daughters as he saw their imaginative play diminishing during the Covid 19 pandemic. In an interview with People, Krasinski explains how his daughters “started doing fewer imaginary games,” and instead “started to let the real world in.” When asked, “are we going to be okay?”, Krasinski’s response was to create a film to remind his kids that “they could go back” anytime to the “magical world they created”.

“The pink alligator Ally, that is Violet’s imaginary friend. The pink alligator lives under Violet’s bed. I said, ‘Is that scary to you?’ And she said, ‘No, that’s why she’s there, to eat all the bad guys when they come in.’ And I said, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’ Hazel’s a very empathetic soul, and we were making s’mores one night, and her marshmallow burst into flames as they tend to do, and she was so destroyed that she had hurt some sort of creature. And I said, ‘Oh, no, no, that’s just his thing. He lights on fire and then he goes out and then he lights on fire and then he goes out.’ And she loved that idea, and so that became her imaginary friend.”

John Krasinski, PEOPLE
IF characters at the hospital.
Cal (Reynolds), Bea (Fleming) and the IFs at the hospital. Credit: Paramount Pictures

The pandemic also inspired another Krasinski project. In 2020, Krasinski produced Some Good News, a web series dedicated to sharing good news amidst rough times.

IF Review

Overall, IF is a sweet story that resonates with one’s inner child. Fleming, Reynolds, and Krasinski give enjoyable performances. Additionally, some of Hollywood’s biggest stars voice the imaginary friends, or “ifs”, such as Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Emily Blunt, Blake Lively, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, and Louis Gossett Jr. The score, composed by Michael Giacchino, takes the audience on an emotional ride, evoking themes of innocence, love, grief, nostalgia, and childlike wonder. The most emotional moments of the film shine alongside the swelling music, as well as the sweeping cinematography by Janusz Kamiński.

The IF characters dancing.
Cailey Fleming dancing in IF. Credit: Paramount Pictures

Parts of the film leave viewers with more questions than answers, particularly in terms of plot and worldbuilding. The methods through which the IFs are reunited with their owners raise some confusion, as well as the way that a 12 year old is able to travel through New York City both alone and with a complete stranger. The emotional scenes are incredibly touching and can certainly lead to some tears being shed by older viewers, but may go over the heads of younger viewers. Regardless, younger viewers can and have certainly enjoyed the film for its lovable characters and whimsical adventures, as well as older viewers. 

Critics and Audiences

Reviews from critics and audiences are varied. IF received 48% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics, while achieving a more positive audience score at 87%.

“Enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Got genuinely emotional near the climax of the film, Cailey Fleming and John Krasinski’s dynamic together and acting range was truly some of the best I’ve seen. The movie wasn’t perfect by any means, but save for the occasional confusion involving the ‘rules’ of how exactly IFs can/can’t interact with the reality and unnecessary dramatic moments and somewhat obvious revelations, this was truly an enjoyable watch. Definitely recommend viewing it with the entire family, as it has elements that would appeal to all ages.”

Audience Reviewer Basheer on Rotten Tomatoes

While critics have been rather harsh with their ratings, IF‘s intended audience appears to enjoy the film. Families have expressed their appreciation for IF through sharing their own imaginary friends on social media:

IF And Gen Z

All generations can enjoy IF. Younger viewers will enjoy the fun and colorful imaginative aspects of the film. Older viewers, on the other hand, can reconnect with their imagination while also valuing the emotionally nuanced details present. This film can also particularly resonate with Gen Zers, who are somewhat in between the younger and older generations.

With Gen Zers generally being within the range of 12 to 27 years old at the time of IF’s release, it is clear that most Gen Zers are currently navigating the journey of growing up. Studies show that Gen Zers are worrying excessively over their futures, especially after the pandemic. According to Psychology Today, a report titled Stress in America determined that “half of young Generation Z teens have said that the pandemic has affected their outlook on their future, with a similar number saying that it’s made their futures seem downright ‘impossible’.”

Additionally, Business Insider highlights how “74% of Gen Zers and millennials are worried about their job security — significantly higher than the overall population, where just 47% say they’re concerned about job stability, according to a study last year by McKinsey & Company.” With other factors also inducing anxiety, such as social media usage and world issues, Gen Zers struggle to remember what makes them happy at times.

IF can remind Gen Zers to continue to value their inner child, even as they embrace adulthood. Bea (Cailey Fleming) chooses to dismiss childhood after the loss of her mother at the start of the film. In a scene with John Krasinski, who plays her father, she asks him to not treat her like a kid, mentioning that “life doesn’t always have to be fun.” Krasinski responds, “doesn’t stop us from trying, though”. Eventually, Bea learns to appreciate childhood and imagination over the course of the story. Gen Z can do the same, as it can certainly make life easier.

Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming in IF.
Cal (Reynolds) and Bea (Fleming) in IF. Credit: Paramount Pictures.
Written By

Hello! I am currently pursuing my bachelors degree at Fordham University as a New Media & Digital Design major. I enjoy storytelling in all its various mediums, and am working towards building a career in the media industry!

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