Certificate: U

Voices of: Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, Fiona Shaw, Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr

Release date: 2024

4 out of 5


The biggest surprise here is that, after the tense terror of A Quiet Place, writer-director John Krasinski has made such a sweet, charming movie aimed squarely at children. There are of course nods to grown-ups, most notably in the central themes about the importance of retaining that sense of childlike wonder, but kids will connect with the strikingly open emotionality, brightly colourful characters and the way silly comedy is mixed with engaging drama.

It’s set in New York, where 12-year-old Bea (Cailey Fleming) moves in with her grandmother (Fiona Shaw) following the untimely death of her mother and a forthcoming heart operation for her optimistic father (Krasinski). Holding her grief and fear inside, Bea discovers the goofy Calvin (Ryan Reynolds) living in the apartment upstairs with a collection of fantastical creatures led by a giant purple fur ball named Blue (voiced by Steve Carell) and a Betty Boop-like bug (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). These are imaginary friends, or IFs, who have lost touch with their now-grown children.

Under Coney Island, Bea is introduced to a secret realm of retired IFs, and she takes it on herself to reunite them with the people who have forgotten them. Adult viewers will spot exactly where this is leading, but the story’s magic is designed with youngsters in mind. And the film is expertly made, with first-rate acting from the human and vocal cast, plus gorgeous cinematography and wonderfully rendered digital effects.

There’s also an expansive range of lively IFs who are vividly voiced by an A-list cast that includes Awkwafina, Bradley Cooper, Maya Rudolph and even George Clooney. This adds a sharp snap to the comedy, which sometimes feels uneven alongside the big emotions and hushed dramatic moments. But the film is a terrific celebration of the child that lives inside us all. And it’s an important reminder to let that child out, no matter how old we are.


Is IF suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...

There are several moments in this film that honestly explore the issue of a parent’s illness or death, which might cause worries for young viewers.  These scenes are strikingly realistic, but they are lightened by the funny imaginary creatures, and find resolution in Bea’s journey.

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