Friday, February 22, 2019

The Changeover

Laura Chant is a “sensitive.” That sort of means she has the “Shine.” It also means she could possibly transition into a full-fledged witch, but there is no guarantee the process will be safely completed, just like there is no guarantee obnoxious teenagers can successfully evolve into mature adults. Chant has very personal and pressing motivation for fulfilling her witchly promise, which raises the stakes considerably in Stuart McKenzie & Miranda Harcourt’s The Changeover, opening today in Brooklyn.

From time to time, Chant gets premonitions, but her over-worked, working-class mum does not want to hear about that. Instead, she just wants Chant to shut-up and take care of her little brother, Jacko. You could say she has not done so well on that score, but it is hard to be prepared for the danger represented by Carmody Braque. He happens to be a larva, a supernatural parasite that sucks the life-force out of their victims. Tragically, Braque managed to sink his hooks into Jacko, after he tricked the lad into “letting him in.”

Channt is definitely out of her depth, but she finds an ally in her brooding classmate, Sorenson Carlisle, a witch (not a warlock), from a long line of witches. His mother and grandmother could have some helpful advice for Chant, whereas her mother just nags and nags.

Based on New Zealand YA author Margaret Mahy’s 1984 Carnegie Medal-winner of the same name, The Changeover is one of the better films based on YA novels, but admittedly, its only competition is the greatly underappreciated Before I Fall. It is not saying much to argue it is much better than I Still See You, November Criminals, and Fallen, which it most definitely is. A lion’s share of the credit is due to Timothy Spall, who is jolly fun to watch chewing the scenery as Braque.

Th crafty Spall is indeed fun to watch, but Erana Janes is quite compelling as Laura Chant. Nicolas Galitzine is rather dull as Carlisle, brooding teen witch, while Lucy Lawless is frustratingly underemployed as his mother, Miryam. Still, the ensemble definitely exceeds the low expectations viewers might have for another YA movie adaptation. In this case, Changeover’s deep roots, stretching all the way back to ’84 arguably suggest this story has some staying power. In fact, there are some rather intriguing elements to Chant’s psychological and paranormal battle with Braque. Frankly, it probably deserves better than its excuse-me-once-a-day run at the Kent Theater in Brooklyn, but that’s what it has. Recommended for fans of supernatural teen fiction, Th Changeover is now playing in select cities.