Los Angeles, 1928. A single mother returns from work to find her nine-year-old son gone. She calls the LAPD to initiate a search. Five months later, a boy is found in Illinois who fits the description; he says he's her son. To fanfare and photos, the LAPD reunite mother and son, but she insists he's not her boy. The cops dismiss her as either a liar or hysterical. When she joins a minister in his public criticism of the police, they in turn use government power to silence and intimidate her. Meanwhile, a cop goes to a dilapidated ranch to find a Canadian lad who's without legal status; the youth tells a grisly tale. There's redress for murder; is there redress for abuse of power?Written by
The title refers to a European folk legend. Supposedly, fairies, elves, trolls, or even the devil would occasionally steal young children from their cradles, and leave a false child - a "changeling" - in its place. The changeling would grow sick and die, or exhibit bad behavior as it grew up, while the real child would supposedly become the slave of those who took it, and would never be seen again by its parents. The "changeling" legend was sometimes used to explain infant deaths or disorders such as mental retardation or autism in children. See more »
Twice Christine mentions that the boy pretending to be Walter is three inches shorter than her real son: while comparing his height to Walter's height drawn on the door frame, and when the doctor explains that the spine may shrink during times of extreme stress. When Christine testifies at the hearing, she says the boy pretending to be Walter was four inches shorter. See more »
There is nothing more reliable than Eastwood behind the camera, with his assured touch his films are never boring or deliberately confusing, hiding technical devices or special effects that detract from the most important part of movie making: a good screenplay, a good story, good acting. For the past 10 years, many films have been unduly praised because they have one or two great performances, unfairly leaving many good and deserving movies without the recognition they deserved. Eastwood has however, given us the whole package time after time, with movies as varied as "Mystic River", "Letters", "Million Dollar Baby" and now "Changeling". True, there is a link, they are all strong films, with themes that deal with pain and loss, but the stories are different, the settings require an amazing attention to detail, what they all share is a strong focus, and interestingly enough, superb performances.
Eastwood has paved the way to acting honors for Penn, Freeman, Swank, Hackman, and others that were continuously ignored by the Academy. There is no denying the power of their performances in Eastwood's movies, and that leads to the center of this film: Jolie. I read recently that her performance has been attacked as being affected and the attempt of a star to look normal. Putting aside those silly and biased remarks, let's state something clearly, the lady has given us a fantastic tour de force, proving that she can be both a star when looking at the other cameras, but that when she is working for a director, she gives her best, regardless of what our perception of her private life might be. If you are a critic with a personal disapproval of that persona, keep it to yourself, concentrate on the film and the work of the performer.
As the mother who desperately wants the truth about her child, Angelina is flawless. We can read the pain in her eyes, the determination and the disturbing reality that her obsession might be having unexpected results, but one thing is clear, there is a drive that won't quit, and it's admirable for those of us who want her to be reunited with her child, and it's quite inconvenient for the people who have other interests at hand.
Her battle with the folks at LAPD is of epic proportions, and it is amazing that she held on to her goal of exposing the corruption that she encountered as she searched for her missing boy. There are some horrific moments in the film, as we relieve some of the injustices and Gothic horror of places like the hospital in this film. There are also some background scene that might or not reveal what really happen. There are moments when one is a bit exhausted from all the information the film delivers, but every moment is worth it. It is all framed with an expert hand, and it is anchored by the very powerful work by Jolie and the rest of an amazing cast that brings to life emotions such as madness, anger, pain, sorrow, and many times, disbelief that humans can be capable of such terrible actions.
The film contains amazing production values, as we are taken back to an era that doesn't exist anymore. The recreation of the time Los Angeles was on its way to being a real city is incredible, as we see it before it fell apart and spread all over a gigantic geographical area, losing its identity. The musical score is a sweet melody that hints at the love and pain themes in the film, and there are some moments bound to become classic, as children tell the stories that adults might not want to face or believe.
All in all, "Changeling" may be very difficult to sit through, but it is not less impressive, effective or good than any of the last five films Eastwood has made. As a matter of fact, it's just one masterpiece from the man who could teach Hollywood a few lessons.
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