The Exchange leans much harder into the comedy than the drama, but that doesn’t stop it from occasionally delving into deeper issues, particularly prejudices based on skin color and the difficulties of being a foreigner. Set in Hobart Ontario “Godforsaken Canada” in 1986, a town whose mascot is a white squirrel of all things, our central character is shy, awkward teen Tim (Better Watch Out’s Ed Oxenbould). He orders a French exchange student whom he hopes to bond with, but his new pal ends up being an uber horny, chain-smoking, not-so-sophisticated troublemaker, Stephane (Avan Jogia). In their first day together, Stephane simulates sex with a bean bag, celebrates being in Canada (“big wow for Canada!”), and delivers this sage advice: “before sex can happen in the pants, you must first have it in the nose.”
The humor inherent in Tim’s situation remains hilarious throughout. Stephane unexpectedly commands the spotlight in everything he does. For breakfast, Stephane comes down to Tim’s family with practically see-through pants, displaying a huge bulge for all to see—the mom, Sheila (Jennifer Irwin), is super into it. At school, it turns out Stephane is extremely talented at playing soccer. Gary, an overbearing, slightly weird gym teacher played by Justin Hartley, takes Stephane under his wing as he spots the kid’s talent. Stephane rescues a girl from being crushed by a man as he jumps off a building. It seems that Stephane can ultimately do no wrong in the eyes of the local townsfolk, who were no doubt in need of a reprieve amidst a “crippling depression.”
It is Stephane’s platonic bromance with Tim that drives the film to its greatest successes. Avan Jogia and Ed Oxenbould each vibe energies, bonding just as wonderfully onscreen as the duo likely bonded offscreen. They share so many truly great moments together that make The Exchange worth watching. A few of my personal favorites were Tim’s reactions to Stephane showing him “a French movie” [which is actually porn]; Stephane driving a car using his knees; a toast to “the Jesus cow”; and Tim and Stephane jamming out to “Sussudio” by Phil Collins.
I loved their friendship, which makes the emotional gear-shift of the final act into a harmonious character-driven success. I wouldn’t say this movie is perfect or anything, but it’s a highly entertaining coming-of-age teen comedy that just plain works. The story beats are certainly nothing original, nor does the conclusion dive into unknown waters. The Exchange doesn’t need any flashy bells and whistles—it fits over you like a warm blanket, comforting in its embrace of familiarity and breezy vibes. Both young lead actors keep churning out quality performances, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. I still mourn the loss of Jogia’s excellent but short-lived sci-fi comedy, Now Apocalypse. Fans can rest assured, Jogia’s portrayal of Stephane is one of his most profound and interesting to date.
The Exchange applies for a transfer when it premieres in limited release theaters Friday, July 30th.