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Can women and men be just friends?

That is the question posed in a charming new comedy starring former boy wizard Daniel Radcliffe in his first romantic lead role. Beach Metro is a family newspaper so I should explain that ‘friend’ is The F Word of the title, which has been changed to What If? for sensitive American audiences. What if the love of your life is actually your best friend?

Radcliffe plays med school dropout Wallace, who meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) at a party. They hit it off, but there’s a catch – she already has a man in her life. The chemistry is there, but Wallace doesn’t have a love potion or a magic wand to make the guy disappear and free himself from the dreaded ‘friend’ zone.

Zoe Kazan and Daniel Radcliffe go for a stroll on the Boardwalk in a scene from The F Word.

Zoe Kazan and Daniel Radcliffe go for a stroll on the Boardwalk in a scene from The F Word.

Radcliffe was in Toronto on July 21 for a red carpet screening as well as a meet and greet with the winners of a Toronto Star contest, “Check out Toronto as seen in The F Word.” Entrants tweeted a photo of themselves at one of the locations shown in the film, including the Pink Purl in Leslieville. You may have seen the full page contest ads that featured wonderful poster art by Evan B. Harris. Did anyone spot iconic Beach landmarks like the Leuty Lifeguard Station?

Director Michael Dowse (Goon) set out to find romantic settings across the city and many were east of the Don. When The F Word opened at TIFF last year, Dowse told a press conference, “I looked at the beaches and the water. There’s a ton of water around Toronto which gives it a really romantic feel … Toronto is such a beautiful, multicultural metropolis.”

Radcliffe described his memories of a skinny-dipping scene in the moonlight under the towering Scarborough Bluffs as “really lovely … Lake Ontario is fantastic.”

Wallace and Chantry share in the warm glow of a bonfire on the sand and sunbathe at Bluffer’s Park, as well as visit Kew Gardens and stroll on the Boardwalk. We know where this relationship is going, but it is a bumpy and endearing ride in a city of romantic possibilities. Toronto has never looked so good, especially the view of our downtown skyline from Broadview Avenue.

The Beach has some new ‘movie stars’ (no autographs, please). Members of the Kew Beach Lawn Bowling Club wore their tournament whites and played a game in the background of a scene with Radcliffe and his buddy (Adam Driver). The movie crew were there for about three hours, which gave Zoe Kazan time to try her hand at lawn bowling.

When I visited the club last September members were very friendly and gave me a few pointers. A lot of strategy is involved in rolling the balls, or bowls, near the target, or ‘jack’. Did you know the bowls are not actually round, but slightly oval, and are weighted to one side (the bias), which causes a curving motion?

The Kew Beach Lawn Bowling Club has been keeping Beachers active since 1908. The president of the club, Joanne Smith, told me that lawn bowling is a very welcoming sport and “a great game for any age,” as well as “a much more challenging game than people think.” She described lawn bowling as “curling on grass.”

A slightly cheeky recent ad in Beach Metro News (“Have you got the bowls to try it?”) received a good response and newcomers have been out learning a fun sport this summer. The season runs until October, still time to meet some new friends. For more info e-mail bowlbythebay@gmail.com.

Member Martin Rieser told me he was at the filming but didn’t know it was Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. I had to ask him the age-old question, “Can men and women be just friends?” Rieser replied, “It can get tricky. I think it’s possible, but I would give it a 90 to 10 chance against. Sooner or later something’s gonna happen.”

To find out whether ‘something’s gonna happen’ between Wallace and Chantry check out The F Word when it opens on August 22. It’s a great date movie and a love letter to Toronto.

You can view a very young Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) at a free screening outside at dusk in Kew Gardens on July 31. The director, Chris Columbus, happens to be in town right now, filming Pixels with Adam Sandler.

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