'Changing Partners' Review: Musical heartaches

Every once in a while, a film comes along not exactly to break the barriers of an abused genre, but to enliven it with a novel perspective and fresh ideas.

Changing Partners is such a film.

Love and relationships 

Seemingly rife with the same preoccupation with the finiteness of love and relationships as a lot of other recent films about breakups and heartbreaks, Dan Villegas' film makes one variation to the tired formula that changes everything. A very faithful adaptation of a musical play by Vincent de Jesus, the film, instead of focusing on the story of one relationship, spreads its precious attention around 4, all of which share the same issues surrounding significant age gaps, the same trajectory from happiness to pain, and the same actors playing different lovers.

It really is an ambitious proposition. 

The conceit seems to be more suited for theater, where the demands from its audience to stretch their imagination are far more immense considering the limitations of the stage. Cinema has spoiled its audience to expect images that resemble reality, and the design of Changing Partners begs for a little bit more, to believe that Agot Isidro is both a heterosexual woman and lesbian in their 40s who are in love with their respective partners who are several years younger than them.

However, Villegas, takes a courageous plunge and commits to De Jesus' vision. Changing Partners works precisely because it takes that extra step for novelty. Its concerns about how relationships may work or fail may be conventional and populist even if they traverse different gender landscapes, but it embraces those conventions. It even celebrates its populism, indulging in celebrating the normalcy of all the happy and sorrowful affairs of the heart notwithstanding the sexuality of those feeling them.

Polished film

Changing Partners also works because Villegas has crafted such a polished film, one that allows its prime conceit to be both a noticeable part of the design but never too outrageous to become a distraction to the film’s beating heart.

Marya Ignacio's editing is precise. The transitions between the 4 stories are seamless. Mycko David's cinematography makes most of the tight spaces through extensive use of shadows and close-ups to evoke the maelstrom of emotions that the characters are going through. Lilit Reyes' translation of De Jesus' play is brimming with wit, adding essential levity to the all the sordidness that the film indulges in.

Set mostly indoors, the film makes each apartment and house of its characters a striking mirror of the relationships and their conflicts, all reflecting the lifestyles and tastes that are part and parcel of the romances' failures.

The film however is nothing without the forceful performances of its 4 leads. Isidro, Anna Luna, Jojit Lorenzo, and Sandino Martin portray their various roles with indubitable passion. Whether they are singing the wistful hymns composed by De Jesus or simply exchanging lines with each other, they fulfill the film's primary goal of enunciating each and every emotion that must come full circle by the film's end.

Noble and novel motive

Changing Partners doesn't really say anything new about romance, although its motive of treating all kinds of relationships as one and the same is noble, and in a way novel. Nevertheless, the film is a technical accomplishment, and its loud and very proud exclamations on love are ones worth hearing. – Rappler.com