What's the best case scenario ?

What’s the best case scenario ?

25 years ago, one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time came into our lives and asked one key question:

Can men and women be friends?

It’s amazing to think that its been that long since WHEN HARRY MET SALLY first posed the question to us, especially when we think about how much has changed in the world around us. The very nature of relationships has changed, with some people just looking for company, some people looking for a physical connection only, and others not looking for anything. So with so much having changed in our lives since Meg Ryan first faked her orgasm in a deli, is the question still valid? Can men and women indeed be friends?

THE F WORD is the story of Chantry (Zoe Kazan) and Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe). When they meet one night at a party, they have an instant chemistry and an easy way with one another. The hiccup, as is pointed out that night, is that Chantry is already living with her longterm boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall). She proposes that she and Wallace be friends, since she doesn’t have many and would really like a few more. Despite the massive crush that is raging in his heart, Wallace agrees.

As their friendship flourishes, Wallace’s feelings for Chantry never subside. He seeks the counsel of his friends Allan and Nicole (Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis) who both think that he’s more than a little crazy to wait things out with Chantry and hope for an opening. Meanwhile, Chantry is forever talking about how great a friend Wallace is to her girlfriends and how “it’s not like that”. It even leads to her sister Dalia (Megan Park) making a play for Wallace, which may or may not be a good idea for all involved.

In many ways, it leaves us to wonder not just whether Chantry and Wallace could be friends, but even whether or not they should be friends.
Zoe Kazan in THE F WORD
So, can men and women be friends?

THE F WORD seems to believe that we should have friends of the opposite sex. There’s a specific dynamic that takes place when men and women interact. We don’t talk and act the same way we would when we’re surrounded by friends of our own gender. As we watch Wallace and Chantry go to-and-fro, what we see on display is a bit of a guard that comes up; a filter that makes them be their best selves. That’s true for most of us. When we’re just “with the girls” or “with the boys”, we tend to let it all hang out. In these moments we are our most grumpy and petty…in these moments, we are sometimes our worst selves. So if spending time with a member of the opposite sex makes us be better than that, then maybe it’s a good idea.

But can men and women be friends?

The stumbling block in the case of Wallace and Chantry is Wallace’s obvious feelings for her. They are there from the first instant. Because they are clear, we can see that he is sucking it up and taking the friendship as a consolation prize. He’s going with the old adage of rather having Chantry as a friend than not having her at all. However, this dynamic is toxic to a male/female friendship. It looms like a cloud over them and paints every moment of true connection with a dishonest brush. What’s more, Wallace isn’t really all that great about hiding it. So at some point, they both must know the score, and yet they continue. How long until that sort of foundation to a relationship gives way?

Therefore, men and women cannot be friends, right?

Well, no – not exactly. That dynamic that I talked about before? It’s pretty important. What it comes with is an intimacy…but not that kind of intimacy. It’s a feeling of safeness that we seem to feel when we’re one-on-one, and it doesn’t always present itself when we talk to our friends of the same gender. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of things we’d only tell our like-gender friends that we wouldn’t bring up in mixed company. At the same time though, there’s an emotional honesty that comes forth when we’re with one person of the opposite sex – especially one we’ve become familiar with. So when we see Chantry and Wallace talking about the worst thing that’s ever happened to each of them, we’re party to them being vulnerable in a way that is good for the soul. What’s more, they’re being vulnerable in a way that they wouldn’t be with many other people. Ultimately, it will help them better understand who they are, and who they need – or want to be. It might not be possible without a friend of the opposite sex.

Guess that means men and women can be friends, yes?

Maybe, but there’s one more thing that we need to consider. THE F WORD eventually gets to the point of emotional fidelity. Specifically, we can be unfaithful to those we are in committed relationships with without the use of physical affection. We can open ourselves up in ways that are inappropriate and disrespectful to the ones we care about most, and these sorts of feelings are every bit as destructive as a make-out session on a drunken night. We might not think that they matter, but they do. Whether a person is the one doing the pining, or the one being lusted after, letting a situation like this go on is every bit as bad as taking off one’s wedding ring before a night out at the bar. Being in love is a puzzle with many pieces, and one of those pieces is an emotional honesty. Both lusting after someone who is committed, and letting your emotional guard down when your significant other isn’t around is a terrible idea…and ultimately hurtful to all involved.

Alright, men and women cannot be friends.

The truth is, I don’t know. While THE F WORD moved me, entertained me, and spoke to me in many ways, the truth is that my story has never been that of Chantry and Wallace. Through an odd set of circumstances, most of my friends since puberty have been female. Yes, this has made things difficult from time-to-time, but I’d rather take those difficulties as part of life than to completely wipe out everything I have learned from all the amazing women I’ve been friends with through the years. I think having friends of the opposite sex ultimately makes us better women and men, and perhaps even better prepared to be our best selves when “the one” comes along.

The trick, as THE F WORD points out, is honesty…and if it’s there in abundance, then and only then, friendship between men and women is possible.

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of ★ ★ ★ ★
What did you think? Please leave comments with your thoughts and reactions on THE F WORD.