You know when you see a film won a major award and you therefore go into it with higher expectations than normal? That worked for Parasite as that won big at Cannes and managed to exceed my expectations. if…. walked away with that same statuette and had the complete opposite reaction. I guess I had forgotten that UK films of the late 1960s don’t always agree with me.
Here is my issue with this film: we spend so long building up to the climax, which is essentially a school shooting done by three students who are very much ‘other’, but the lead up and the pay off just never hits. When I think of the Gus Van Sant movie Elephant, which is in a similar category of being a Cannes winner ending in a school shooting, you had tension and some morbid sense of the psychology of the shooters. Here, the shooters in if…. want to be some sort of counterculture heroes, which should work as a concept but it just falls flat.
It was interesting bough to see the satire (although it feels more realistic than people like to admit) of the upper class boarding school. Eccentric tenured teachers, older students using their power to inflict harm in the lower years and the general servitude and fucked up sexualisation of underage boys – all sounds like the boarding schools we know existed back then and probably still exist now. There is so much in this system that could spawn a school shooter (yet in reality it didn’t) so it is frustrating that the ending left me so cold.
Weirdly enough, especially when you considered the extended time, you get so much more satisfaction from similar story threads in the Rockstar video game Bully. It’s clear that the writers at Rockstar will have had a film like if…. in mind when writing this; they just also found a way to make the satire work better for someone like me.