Changeling is a shocking drama film based on actual historical events. It tells the unbelievable tale of Christine Collins, a single mother in Los Angeles who leaves her son home alone one day and returns to find he has disappeared. The police return the wrong boy and she embarks on a costly campaign against them which threatens her very sanity.

Angelina Jolie and Jeffrey Donovan in Changeling

The film was directed by Clint Eastwood and he handles the material thoughtfully and with patience. The screenplay was written by Michael Straczynski who researched the case after being tipped off about it by a contact at Los Angeles City Hall. It is an emotional film and while elements of the story were given the Hollywood treatment and they chose to shy away from some of the darker or stranger aspects of the tale it is still a worthy effort with some depth to it.

The events take place back in 1928 and the period is recreated in minute detail with no expense spared. Christine Collins works as a supervisor in a telephone exchange, riding up and down the floor on her roller skates dealing with calls that the operators can't handle. She is clearly good at her job and so it is no surprise that she gets called into work on her day off. As a single mother she has no choice but to leave her son, Walter, home alone. When she returns Walter is gone and she contacts the police. They take months about it but eventually they find her son, or so it seems. However when the two are re-united she quickly realises that it isn't Walter at all.

The LAPD is undergoing an investigation on corruption and a local Reverend called Gustav A. Briegleb is waging a war of words upon them. They are desperate for a PR win and so instead of admitting their mistake they decide to discredit Christine. She is understandably livid and determined to find her real son and with the help of the Reverend she fights the authorities as best she can but their power is frighteningly absolute and they resort to dirty tricks to defeat her. The resolution is horrific as a mass murderer is uncovered and the department is put on trial.

Angelina Jolie in Changeling

The cast is very good although, to be honest, I had some trouble buying Angelina Jolie in the role of Christine Collins. Apparently Eastwood chose her over Hilary Swank and Reese Witherspoon because he felt her face fit the period setting. Jeffrey Donovan gave a great performance as the deplorable LAPD Captain J.J Jones and Jason Butler Harner was downright chilling as Northcott. John Malkovich provided able support as the Reverend and Michael Kelly was also very good as Detective Ybarra.

It is a very slow film and the subjects it deals with are thought provoking and ultimately very depressing. The historical truth of a past filled with misogynistic evil, corruption and incompetence is ugly to behold. There is no doubt this is a well made film but I have no desire to ever see it again and it makes for a pretty unpleasant viewing experience.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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