The Toronto-shot rom-com sees Radcliffe play a medical school dropout cynical about love who falls for a sweet, "banter-y" woman (Kazan) at a party. After their instant connection and evening full of chatting, he is disheartened to discover that she is already in a long-term relationship. Regardless, the pair try to continue their relationship as friends.
Fubar director Dowse said he was itching to make a performance-driven movie that was "quieter and gentler" than his last movie — the hockey comedy Goon — and found it in this script by screenwriter Elan Masai, who adapted it from a Canadian play called Toothpaste and Cigars.
Their result, which premiered and has garnered a warm, buzzy reception at the Toronto International Film Festival, is a movie with the hallmarks of rom-com classics that also offers a dose of realism and a more natural feeling in the interactions of the star-crossed lovers.
"We see these [rom-coms] where people lie and manipulate and hide things. They have these cockamamie schemes to try and get someone to fall in love with them. Nobody does that in real life. Our real lives are complicated and hilarious and are emotionally moving enough," Masai said at a press conference for the film in Toronto on Sunday.
"I always joke that in this movie, any time anybody behaves like it's a romantic comedy, the movie smacks them down … What would a real person do? I found that to be more relatable, universal and grounded — and also funnier. You're watching real people struggling through a complicated situation with, hopefully, wit and a little bit of grace."
Already praised by locals for its painting of Toronto as a warm, romantic setting as cinematic as Seattle or Manhattan, The F Word has also garnered notice for the appealingly awkward romantic chemistry between the two leads.
"It's not polished. We're trying to go for a very… real version of a romantic comedy," Kazan said. "We wanted this to feel like people you know in your life, not airbrushed personalities [and] faces."
To that effect, the project was "the first time in anything that I've done that I've kind of been allowed to let a lot more of my own personality come through," admitted Radcliffe, the former Harry Potter star who is at TIFF with three very different films, including the horror mystery Horns and the Beat Poet tale Kill Your Darlings.
"It's rare that you get a script that pushes the romance with the comedy. I think that's what makes this film stick out," Dowse said.
"The two characters use comedy as a way to flirt and as a way to get closer and the thing I love the most is that as the film goes on, the comedy goes on to become a sign of affection, their love for each other."
The F Word, which had already been slated for theatrical release in Canada and the U.K., was also picked up on Tuesday for a U.S. release.
The Toronto International Film Festival continues through Sept. 15.