The adaptation of the stage musical celebrates difference through painful similarities
Changing Partners tells the story of Alex and Cris, who have been together for seven years. The older Alex is played by both Jojit Lorenzo and Agot Isidro, while the younger Cris is played by Sandino Martin and Anna Luna. The film cuts between the various gender permutations of the couple as it sketches out their situation. They start out looking pretty happy, but some issues soon rise to the surface. The conflict is built around Cris spending time with a friend named Angel. Alex suspects that Cris is cheating, and as they try to work through their differences, they unearth deeper problems in their relationship.
The film is based on the musical of the same name by Vince de Jesus. And it makes a rather interesting argument. In telling basically the same story while switching between the possible gender dynamics of this one couple, the movie builds a case for equality on a personal level. It depicts a universality of experience that goes beyond the social constructs that continue to separate people. It preaches commonality through the pain that the characters experience, uniting them in their inability to salvage what had already been lost.
What ends up being the primary cause of the rift between Alex and Cris is their age. The movie plays up the generational difference pretty early on, at first writing it off as a minor hurdle, before it becomes something more serious later on. What seems to tip things over the edge isn’t simply their ages, but their inability or unwillingness to try and understand the other. This plays out dramatically in their songs, many of which involve them singing to the same tune separately, the possibility for sympathy present, but never simply expressed to the other.
It’s a simple story that gains something profound in the telling. The movie slides seamlessly in and out of the four different realities, each one with its own distinct setting. It does so slowly at first before becoming a tempest of shared emotion as the film gets to its climax. It’s a remarkable feat of narrative construction, and though the individual scenes can at times feel a little lackluster in their staging, the combined effect can be pretty astounding. The more the movie blurs the line between these separate realities, the harder it hits with the depth of its tragedy. Regardless of the permutations, people end up making the same mistake, and end up saying the same hurtful things that they can’t really take back.
The film brings over the cast from the original stage production, and this turns out to be a very good thing. Jojit Lorenzo, Agot Isidro, Sandino Martin, and Anna Luna clearly have a real affection for the material, and they bring real verve to their performances. The familiarity and comfort that these actors have with each other come through, and it actually helps tell the story of this couple. And though they’re all telling the same story, each version of these characters feel distinct, the ensemble displaying subtle variations in dynamics that contribute to the greater themes.
Changing Partners does something a little extraordinary, but it does so within the simple, completely relatable context of a relationship that is falling apart. It’s a movie that holds its arms out, drawing people in with its raw openness in portraying the foibles of this one particular couple, asking the audience to find themselves in the various combination of characters. And then, in expressing the universality of their pain, in capturing the ways in which all these couples are alike, it builds to larger themes that speak to the ways in which we are united, even if we are all different.
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.