Lifechanger

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Lifechanger
"The whole thing is beautifully shot in far higher resolution than most viewers are likely to get the benefit of." | Photo: Fantasia Film Festival

What is it that makes us who we are? Last year, Fantasia challenged viewers with Replace, the story of a woman who is losing her memory and skin and with them the means through which she recognises herself. This year it brings us Lifechanger, whose central protagonist, Drew, has lost touch with his body altogether.

He's the central protagonist, but although he is given a consistent voice as narrator (courtesy of Bill Oberst Jr), he isn't played by the lead actor. That honour goes to Lora Burke as Julia, the object of his affection - somebody who once loved him and whom he is determined to get close to again, somehow. The problem is, she wouldn't recognise him as he is today. They've both been through a lot. She copes by going out to the same bar, night after night, chatting to the bartender and swapping stories with strangers - those surprisingly intimate single serving conversations that sometimes develop over beer or spirits after the working day is done, pieces of other people's lives. Perhaps the right stranger can change hers. He copes, meanwhile, by doing something altogether more drastic.

Copy picture

When asked to define themselves, many people do so first and foremost through their relationships with others. Julia is a focal point for Drew as he drifts between different ways of living; her utility is such that one wonders how much of Drew's obsession comes down to that, how much room is left for love. Despite their shared past, his approach to her now borders on stalking (a fact neatly highlighted when a cabbie refuses to cooperate with him in one of the film's several beautifully observed moments of black comedy). She, blissfully unaware, moves through the narrative at a different pace until the inevitable confrontation. But it's what happens after this that lifts the film beyond one-idea-wonder status and reveals its larger ambitions.

Like many films using direct narration, Lifechanger is weighed down by an unnecessarily heavy-handed approach, as if somebody panicked on seeing the assembled footage and, concerned that the audience might no catch everything it was trying to say, kicked the subtlety out of it. Yet annoying as this is, a number of more delicate moments remain, and viewers will need to pay attention if only to properly piece together some of the twists in the plot.

The whole thing is beautifully shot in far higher resolution than most viewers are likely to get the benefit of. There are places where a grittier look might serve it better, but its tendency to look a bit like a commercial is curiously fitting - after all, both Drew and Julia are tourists of a sort, observing other lives, trying to work out what will work for them. The supernatural aspect of the film is handled in a plain, matter-of-fact way at odds with this gloss. It's an interesting take on an old idea but it's essentially there as a means to talk about something else; and though the film is grisly in places, the real horror it deals with is psychological. If one loses touch with one's own identity, can one continue to recognise humanity in anyone else?

Reviewed on: 21 Jul 2018
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Lifechanger packshot
A man with an unusual talent tries to get back to the woman he once lived with, who has no idea what he is.

Director: Justin McConnell

Writer: Justin McConnell

Starring: Lora Burke, Jack Foley, Elitsa Bako, Rachel VanDuzer, Steve Kasan, Sam Whitew, Bill Oberst Jr

Year: 2018

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Canada

Festivals:

Frightfest 2018

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