PLAYWAVE CREATIVE REVIEW: THE CHANGEOVER
Reviewed by Zack Lewin
The Changeover is the film adaptation of a young adult novel of the same name by Margaret Mahy from 1984. Naturally the phrase “film adaptation” sparks some alarm bells, especially when paired with “young adult novel”. Initially excited for this film, because of my love for the supernatural in Australasian settings, I became apprehensive after watching the trailer. Why? Because there was a tall, brooding, dark haired boy. Before I start on about that though, I’ll talk about everything I loved, and I assure that there was a lot of it.
Laura Chant finds her younger brother Jacko to be deathly ill after an encounter with a strange man. This causes her to reach out to the mysterious Sorensen Carlisle for help. She is drawn into a supernatural battle with the spirit attacking her brother.
This film is dark yet soft and its lore is exceptionally compelling. I’m very picky with how I like to see magic portrayed and this fit my tastes perfectly. It's subtle and doesn't treat it as though it's strange, it is a real and tangible part of this world. Instead of wasting time explaining how magic works, or documenting the reactions to it’s discovery, The Changeover focuses on exploring how magic is actually used to impact character’s lives. I’ve noticed this to be a common trait in stories involving magic from New Zealand (and sometimes Australia too) and I loved to see that this is still present in this film.
Laura Chant, the protagonist, is an exceptional representation of youth on screen. She is a powerful and young-minded character with the perfect balance of naivety and wit to warrant her the title of an accurate teen role model. I was blown away by Erana James’s performance of her, and something about the way she carried the role really enhanced the immersion of the story for me. Her voice commands attention and vulnerability, but always possesses a foundation of formidability I found to be valuable to Laura’s character.
Despite The Changeover being outstanding at just about everything else, from colour scheme to costuming, I was constantly annoyed by Sorensen Carlisle. Don’t get me wrong, Nicholas Galitzine plays him quite well and brings a level of humanity to an otherwise drily written character. However, it seems as though he exists to fulfil the romance between him and Laura and I just didn’t care about their romance at all.
I understand that fans of the book would likely be invested in seeing Laura and Sorensen together on the big screen, but in saying that I would hope the romance was better developed on the page than on screen. I will admit that part of me wonders if this is purposeful, if it constitutes as subtlety for the romance to spontaneously develop with no inherent evidence for it, but I’ve come to my personal conclusion that it is poorly slotted in in order to fulfil the adaptation of the “romance” side of Mahy’s “supernatural romance” book.
I found the romance to be distracting, it limits Sorensen’s potential for character arcs and restricts him to the role of a Mary Sue. That being said, part of me finds it very interesting to see a man play that role, as more often this role is played by a woman; the flat, purposeless girl designed to act as a prize/guide for the male protagonist. But this is poor development for a female character AND for a male character. It can be done well if it’s a purposeful subversion but in this case it seems unintentional and gets in the way of what otherwise would have been a seamless story.
Overall I absolutely adored The Changeover. It was everything I hoped it would be, I actually think an appropriate word would be glorious, it’s an outstanding capture of its story. I found it exceptionally gripping and humble, portraying even its most climactic events with a soft and matter of fact tone. Aside from the (compulsory) presence of Sorensen, I think this film is a big change from the kind of supernatural teen movie that we’re used to, through both its style and it’s writing. The Changeover is a triumph for Australasian youth on screen
Hoyts Entertainment Quarter 15
SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2018
6 - 17 June