Cast: Timothy Spall, Melanie Lynskey, Lucy Lawless, Nicholas Galitzine
Directors: Miranda Harcourt, Stuart McKenzie
I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly 100% up-to-date with my New Zealand mythology novels, but after watching The Changeover, I’m not exactly sure if I want to be. The Changeover takes the teen witch genre and puts a unique spin on it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t weird. Through a combination of an incredible antagonistic performance from Spall and an interesting yet confusing storyline, The Changeover provides a solid foundation for a unique supernatural movie, but it just isn’t organized well enough to stand out as one of the best in its genre.
The film follows Laura Chant (Erena James), a teenager who lives in Christchurch and looks after her younger brother Jacko (Benji Purchase). When Jacko meets Carmody Braque (Spall), an odd older man who lives by himself, he puts a stamp on Jacko that starts to make him sick. Seeing no other way to save her brother, Laura asks for help from a supernatural source that forces her into perilous positions and potentially giving up her own life to save her brother’s. Are Laura’s ideas and beliefs true and will they help her save her brother or are these delusions that will forever keep Jacko in a state of comatose? As mentioned earlier, I don’t know anything about this series or about New Zealand mythology in general, but the premise of this movie is both creative and interesting. In my preliminary research of this series, I found out that the books also take place in Christchurch and the location was not changed for the sake of the movie. I actually really liked how they incorporated the Christchurch earthquake into the plot considering the source material takes place well before that real-life event and the directors took this opportunity to put a real-life circumstance in a fictitious story. Outside of the general premise, Spall gives a fantastic performance as the main adversary of Laura and the cause of all her problems. There’s something incredibly unsettling about from the first time you see him on screen that instantly makes you know that’s he’s going to be a problem for Laura. He combines that natural creepiness that he displayed in the Harry Potter movies and combines it with a level of confidence that proves he’s been doing these evil actions for a long time. Outside of that, the main area where the film struggles is it never really establishes why or how these events are happening. We get that Laura is gifted right from the beginning, but outside of that we have to take these events at their face value without much depth behind them. I understand there has to be some suspension of disbelief, but at the same time there needs to be a reason that all of these events are possible in the first place. With the acting and the concept surrounding The Changeover, there is a foundation created for a very successful movie. Even though that foundation is apparent, if the details were just a little more organized The Changeover could’ve been a dream of an independent film that faithfully adapted a series so beloved by New Zealand audiences.
Overall, The Changeover has moments of brilliance and very easily carried by the performance of Spall, but it still had a lot of work to do before it could consider itself a great movie. For a 95 minute fun, interesting supernatural movie, The Changeover definitely checks off the boxes of something I would look for when picking a movie to stream. For citizens of New Zealand, The Changeover may end up connecting with you on a more personal level, but for the rest of the world, you’ll be left with an exciting yet flawed supernatural movie.
Overall Score: 6.5/10