This week’s new films reviewed

Zoe Kazan as Chantry and Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace in What If
Zoe Kazan as Chantry and Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace in What If

Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan fall in love in the romantic comedy What If.

WHAT IF (15)

If you subscribe to a notion of free will – that we are architects of our own destiny rather than slaves to unseen forces – which in itself would be an act of free will, then it’s easy to fixate on the never ending jumble of what ifs.

What if I had worked harder at school; what if I had chosen another profession; what if I had taken a leap of faith and said, “I love you”; what if an actor other than Daniel Radcliffe had been cast in Michael Dowse’s romantic comedy?

Casey Affleck was reportedly interested in playing the film’s emotionally bruised hero but eventually passed on the role.

It’s our loss.

Radcliffe allows some of the woodenness of his Hogwarts years to creep into his portrayal of a medical school dropout, who stumbles upon love when he least expects it.

On-screen chemistry with the luminous Zoe Kazan simmers pleasantly but never reaches boiling point, diminishing our investment in the characters as they struggle to overcome the fear of rejection and verbalise their churning emotions.

With a different lead actor, who allowed the laughs in Elan Mastai’s script to build naturally rather than forcing them, What If could have been an emotionally richer, funnier and sexier slice of modern day 20-something angst with the potential to usurp the genre’s reigning champion: (500) Days Of Summer.

Wallace (Radcliffe) is disillusioned with love, convinced that he will never meet a significant other like his kooky roommate Allan (Adam Driver), who intends to marry his sweetheart, Nicole (Mackenzie Davis).

“In fairy tales, love inspires you to be noble and courageous,” opines Wallace, “but in real life, love is just an all-purpose excuse for selfish behaviour.”

Vowing to steer clear of romance, Wallace seeks refuge in the company of his sister Ellie (Jemima Rooper) and her son Felix (Lucius Hoyos).

At this low ebb, Wallace encounters talented animator Chantry (Kazan), who lives with her longtime boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall).

Chantry and Wallace become good friends but both secretly acknowledge a spark of attraction that could be fanned into a full-blown affair.

As they wrestle with unspoken desire, Chantry’s sister Dalia (Megan Park) makes a play for Wallace.

This unexpected attention piques Chantry’s jealousy and forces uncomfortable truths into the open.

What If follows a time-honoured rom-com recipe and has many of the ingredients to delight but Michael Dowse’s lightweight confection fails to rise properly.

While Kazan eases into her role, Radcliffe is an awkward fit and his comic timing is slightly off throughout.

Outlandish stretches of credibility in the final act certainly don’t help but screenwriter Mastai has an ear for snappy dialogue to ensure plenty of smiles if not quite guffaws.

RATING: 6/10

LUCY (15)

Derriere-numbingly long films may be all the rage but at a lean 89 minutes Lucy, the new action thriller from Luc Besson, is all the better for bucking this Hollywood trend.

And with a kidnapping, killing sprees and questionable drugs thrown into the fray, there’s certainly enough in that hour and a half to halt you from slipping out of the cinema.

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a carefree student living in Taiwan, who is tricked by her new boyfriend Richard into doing his dirty work and carrying a briefcase, jam-packed with potent new drugs, into a hotel for him.

But there’s no time for pleasantries here and before the concierge has greeted Lucy, Richard has been dispatched and Lucy is held hostage by the neighbourhood’s merciless mob of local drug lords headed up by the unsparing Mr Jang (Choi Min-sik).

Waking up, Lucy discovers that the mob has taken the liberty of surgically implanting thousand of pounds worth of a deadly blue drug, CPH4, which increases the user’s brain capacity, into her stomach.

And more than that, if the bright blue crystals leak, it will kill her.

But leak it does and Lucy, who is sent across the world as a drug mule, soon finds her brain working on disturbing new levels, signposted in the film with frequent updates on the percentage of brain capacity she’s using.

As well as being hell-bent on exacting revenge on the mobsters, Lucy also busies herself by tracking down the eminent professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) in Paris who has spent decades researching the brain’s potential.

In a deft twist to Johansson’s role as a human-like operating system in Spike Jonze’s Her, Lucy sees the actress’ voice take on a lifeless tone, shedding personality and lightness as her brain’s potential expands.

Much has been made of the film’s neurological theory not stacking up, but scientific soundness isn’t the mission here – entertainment is.

And while there are some rather odd moments – the flashes to a prehistoric Lucy, the strained conversation Lucy has with her mum and the missed opportunity to kill Mr Jang while she can – Lucy is nevertheless a punchy film, which demands your attention every minute of the way.

RATING: 6/10