February 18, 2019 The Changeover (Movie Review)
Strength comes in a multitude of forms: emotional, physical, mental, and even supernatural, but insecurity, stress, relationships, and other facets of life can compromise one’s perception of their own strength and actually create the illusion of its nonexistence. Bob Marley once said, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice,” a quote that can really resonate with just about anyone who has ever truly struggled with anything in their life. For one teenage girl, though, her strength was like a dormant volcano that only needed to undergo the right kind of extreme pressure before erupting full force.
The Changeover is a Fantasy/Thriller adaptation of Margaret Mahy’s 1984 Carnegie Medal-winning novel that shares the same name. The film comes out of New Zealand and is expected to hit theaters and On Demand February 22nd via Vertical Entertainment. It was written and directed by Stuart McKenzie (The Mouth and the Truth 1991, For Good 2003) with the help of Miranda Harcourt (Needles and Glass 2003, Voiceover 1996), and made in conjunction with Firefly Films.
The film stars Timothy Spall (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 2007, Mr. Turner 2014) as the creepy and conniving Carmody Brock; Melanie Lynskey (Togetherness series, Heavenly Creatures 1994) as struggling single mother, Cate Chant; Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess series, Ash vs Evil Dead series) as the beautiful and benevolent Miryam Carlisle; Nicholas Galitzine (High Strung 2016, Handsome Devil 2016) as the handsome, mysterious stranger, Sorenson Carlisle; Erana James as wise well beyond her years Laura Chant; Kate Harcourt as the supportive and sympathetic Winter Carlisle; and Benji Purchase as curious and wandering, little brother, Jacko Chant.
In addition to having an incredible cast, The Changeover also has an interesting story to tell. It is the story of 16-year-old Laura Chant (James), who, following the devastation from an Earth-shattering earthquake and the tragic loss of her father, is forced to instantly grow up and assume adult responsibilities in order to help out her mother, Cate (Lynskey), and keep her family afloat. Most of these responsibilities revolve around caring for her little brother, Jacko (Purchase), while her mom spends countless hours working various jobs; which, unfortunately, kills any and all chances of her having a normal, teenage social life.
While she watches after her brother with little complaining, Laura desperately craves a life of her own at the same time. Her brother’s curiosity and penchant for wandering leads him, and ultimately her, to the storage unit of a strange character by the name of Carmody (Spall). As he is observing the man’s odd collection of aging toys in various stages of ruin, Jacko is pulled away by his sister, but not before Carmody offers him an ink stamp of a butterfly on his hand, which might actually turn out to be an imprint of a man’s face.
Jacko starts getting sick and has to be hospitalized, which Laura knows is connected to the stamp, but she cannot prove or find anyone to believe her. That is, until Sorenson (Galitzine) comes bearing a warning. Upon becoming more acquainted with the sexy stranger, Laura is opened to a world of power and possibilities she had no idea ever really existed. She knows she is the only one that is going to be able to save Jacko, but she just doesn’t know if she is strong enough to do it. Sorenson, his mother Miryam (Lawless), and grandmother Winter (Harcourt), will have to do whatever it takes to show Laura just how strong she truly is.
There were so many components to this movie that really added to its charm and appeal; delicate yet intense characters that drew you in, faultless performances that put your heart in the moment, exquisite cinematography, a promising and almost nostalgic-feeling narrative that was oddly complimented by the film’s score, and even an important message to be gained on strength and the belief in one’s self. With so many elements having hit the mark, there are only a couple of criticisms that can be made.
Firstly, this movie has been labeled, by some, as a Horror-Thriller movie, which it definitely did not feel like. This is not meant to take anything away from the film, but rather to prevent viewers from going into it thinking it is going to be filled with scares and then growing disappointed and frustrated when it is not. This film could basically be classified as Horror in the same erroneous way that Twilight has been in the past. It is more of a romanticized Thriller that incorporates elements of the supernatural, without so much Horror.
Next, the pacing felt off, as it dragged too much in certain areas. Most exceptionally rated, slow-burning Horror films typically have perfection in the form of the payout. Viewers like to feel as though they were properly rewarded, in some form or fashion, for having sat through the entirety of the snail-paced story. This movie may not have exactly exhibited this same flawlessness in its conclusion, but is still very much worth the watch. For this reason, Cryptic Rock gives The Changeover 3.5 out of 5 stars.