FILM REVIEW: LIFECHANGER (Fantasia Film Festival 2018)
Fantasia Film Festival has come to an end, it was a wild ride and I’m already looking forward to next year. The last film I’m reviewing from Fantasia actually premiered closer to the beginning of the fest, but it is one that I had to chew on for a while until I figured out what I wanted to say. When I saw the trailer, I was really excited for this movie and while the film didn’t end up being my cup of tea it definitely has an original concept that will be appreciated by others.
The film is LIFECHANGER, written and directed by Justin McConnell, an interesting and intimate take on an INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS situation. Drew lives his life jumping from one body to the next, he sucks the life from others and assumes their identity and their lives. The new bodies don’t last forever and he changes frequently, the only constant in his life is Julia, a woman he became infatuated with in a past life. Drew will do anything to keep Julia in his life in one form or another but time is finally catching up with him.
The film is unique in that a lot of actors play the same character. It was an ambitious premise to attempt but I’m not sure if they pulled it off. I wasn’t convinced they were all the same person. What did tie it together was the voice over by Bill Oberst Jr, he narrates as Drew no matter what body he is in. He has a smooth drawl that was both soothing and menacing at the same time. A constant change of faces made it hard to become invested in any of them, though all the performances were solid. A standout however was Lora Burke as Julia who commanded empathy as someone dealing with immense grief.
In my opinion, simplistic stories do well in indie film but LIFECHANGER seems to be too much so. Watching Drew get to Julia seems to be the majority of what the film is offering. While LIFECHANGER is great in other ways, in lacks substance in narrative.
The main problem I had with this film is that Drew is our anti-hero, but he is just not a likable dude. He whines for sympathy from the viewer because he can never be with the one he loves, but how are we to believe he is capable of love when he shows no remorse over his victims? His sense of entitlement is suffocating. I’m not saying that in film we always have to like our main characters, but it helps make it enjoyable.
One thing I can say about the film is that it looks sharp and polished. Despite its grim subject matter the film embraces its Christmas themed timeline and brings the warmth of the bar, where Julia sits and talks with strangers, to us. The film really makes you feel like you’re sipping whisky alongside the characters. Other times, it also brings you out into the cold to brutally dispose of bodies.
LIFECHANGER was aiming for a smart take on identity and what it means to be who we are. It somewhat pulled this off, as it explored Julia’s connection with Drew no matter his appearance. I saw greater potential for social commentary though, and I feel this film could have been a really great platform to comment on sexism and racism seeing as Drew is not picky on which gender or race of victims he chooses to take over.
LIFECHANGER is a body horror and crime thriller film that could have done with a little more of each of those elements. Despite its flaws, it will no doubt be picked up somewhere due to its sleek production value and inventiveness.
2.5 out of 5 tombstones
“While LIFECHANGER is great in other ways, in lacks substance in narrative.”