The Exchange is a fun high school comedy about a student named Tim (Ed Oxenbould). He is socially awkward and decides to join an exchange program to import a new best friend from France. Predictably, things do not go as planned when Stephane (Avan Jogia) ends up being the toast of the town and Tim is back to being the outcast he once was. While Tim is angry at first, his new roommate teaches him about life.
It is a familiar premise that is going to go in the obvious direction. Everyone will fall for Stephane’s charms, Tim will reveal what an awful person the student from France really is, and the school will see what a cool guy Tim was the entire time. Except things do not play out like that at all. In fact, it is much different from similar films and will surprise and entertain audiences.
For starters, Stephane is a genuinely nice guy. Yes, he is not above smoking cigarettes and wearing see-through pants, and he has come to Canada to learn as much about the girls as he has the culture, but he truly has everyone’s best interest at heart. The Exchange does not present this as a surprise and is transparent about it the entire time. He will be many people’s favorite character.
On the other hand, Tim is a little more like the stereotype found in these types of films. He is a complex character who feels he is better than everyone else, but is held back by his insecurities. He is not going to teach Stephane a lesson but learn some about himself. Making things even more enjoyable is the chemistry between the two leads. There is never jockeying for position and the two play off each other instead of against. Even when The Exchange follows more predictable plot beats the relationship between the two never becomes tiresome.
As feel good and heartwarming as things can get, it does not mean the film avoids tackling serious issues. Just when it seems like everything is working itself out, the little town Tim lives in shows its true colors. In a surprising – and sudden – turn, the issue of xenophobia takes the forefront. The Exchange may take place in Canada, but it is a topic that anyone watching will be able to relate to. It is an unexpected turn that is dealt with a little too quickly, but is a nice change of pace for what could be a too predictable story.
The Exchange comes to theaters, VOD, and digital July 30
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