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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Changeling can be found here.
Changeling is an original screenplay by Hollywood writer/producer J. Michael Straczynski. The story is based on true events that occurred in Los Angeles during the 1920s. Although not related to the movie, a book, Nothing is Strange with You: The Life and Crimes of Gordon Stewart Northcott (2008) by James Jeffrey Paul, was written about the events of this case.
The film is based upon the case of Christine and Walter Collins, which was related to the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. In 1926, Gordon Stewart Northcott, a young Canadian man who owned a small chicken ranch in Wineville California, took his 13-year-old nephew Sanford Clark to live with him. Northcott physically and sexually abused the boy and pressed him into helping him murder and dispose of several other boys. Two years later, Sanford's older sister came to visit and became concerned about the boy's safety. She informed Canadian authorities who contacted the LAPD. The police sent immigration agents to the ranch where they found Sanford, who confessed to his role in the murders. The Canadian police captured Northcott, who had fled to his home country, and extradited him back to the US where he was convicted and executed. It is believed by some, including Christine Collins, that Walter, who disappeared in 1928, was one of the victims of Northcott.
In European folklore and folk belief, a changeling is the offspring of a fairy, troll, elf or other legendary creature that has been secretly left in the place of a human child. See here for more information regarding the origin of the term changeling.
Upon first laying eyes upon him, Christine (Angelina Jolie) knew that the boy was not Walter, but she agreed with the police that he might have changed during the five months of his disappearance and agreed to take him home for a trial run. When she noticed that he was circumcised (Walter was not) and that he was three inches shorter than the growth chart on Walter's wall, she was convinced that she was correct about the boy. Soon, others began to corroborate her claims, e.g., Walter's dentist confirmed that the teeth of the changeling did not match those of Walter, Walter's teacher confirmed that the changeling was not the same student she had in her class five months ago. Still, the police would not listen to her.
Christine was using a metaphor to explain to Walter that his father left because did not want to assume the responsibility of taking care of him after he was born.
Christine learns that one of the captive boys has been found. He relates a story of how two other boys, including Walter, broke out of the chicken coop. Walter returned to help him escape, and the three of them ran for their freedom. Christine takes that as hope that her son is still alive somewhere.
Following the hearings, Captain Jones was suspended, Chief Davis was demoted and Mayor Cryer chose not to run for re-election. / For the rest of his life, Reverend Briegleb used his radio show to expose police misconduct and political corruption. / To shake free of the scandal, the community of Wineville, California changed its name to Mira Loma. / Christine Collins never stopped searching for her son.
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