Doubt. What makes Changeling so fascinating is that it is a true story.
Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) is a single mother living in 1920s Los Angeles who comes home from work one day to find her son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith) missing. She anxiously walks the neighbourhood looking for him and, when she cannot find him, rings the police. They tell her that it is not their policy to respond to missing children for 24 hours because most of them return home. But Walter doesn't come home.
After months of extensive searching by the police, Walter is found and returned to his mother. But something is wrong and Christine claims that the boy is not really her son. Thus begins a long, uphill battle with the LAPD who vilify Christine as being delusional and a mother who is unfit. Christine's long battle to find her son, with help from an ally in Reverend Gustav Briegleb, is heart-rending, confronting, and ultimately inspiring.
Angelina Jolie, who was chosen by Clint Eastwood because her face suited the period, is superb as Christine Collins. This may be her best role ever and we see, once again, that she can truly act. Clint Eastwood approaches the narrative with restrained simplicity. But the story is so engaging and intriguing that nothing more is needed.
Changeling transcends mere narrative as it explores the disempowerment of women at the time, police corruption, the power of labelling someone mentally ill, and the nature of closed systems of belief that have the ability to rationalize all evidence that may question the status quo.
It is this last element that particularly interests me about this film. A closed ideological system is one which, no matter what evidence is presented contrary to what is believed, it can be rationalised away. One famous example of this is Sigmund Freud's notion of resistance during therapy. If he suggested to a patient that they had problems with their father, for instance, and the patient resisted this interpretation, then Freud argued that the fact of resistance proved that the explanation was correct. In a situation like this, it is impossible to prove anything to the contrary.
Many religious systems are the same. Any evidence provided against the beliefs of the system are themselves considered evidence that the person raising them is evil and a fulfillment of "prophecies" that those beliefs would be attacked.
Changeling is not directly concerned with such issues. But the events of this story do provoke such considerations — along with many others. The story is simple but extremely evocative.
Changeling is a must-see movie that will leave you speechless at the way people think and behave. Be warned: it has some very disturbing material. But overall, it is a movie that is very enjoyable to watch. It's a powerful story powerfully told. Don't miss it!
'A disturbing film about grim subject matter, but the overall experience is more exhilarating than saddening. There's just something satisfying about seeing a movie so well made.' - Mick LaSalle/San Francisco Chronicle
'J. Michael Straczynski's disjointed script manages to ring false at almost every significant turn (Collins' psychiatric-hospital stay has grown into a latter-day version of "The Snake Pit") and Clint Eastwood's ponderous direction -- a disheartening departure from his sure touch in "Letters From Iwo Jima" and "The Bridges of Madison County" -- magnifies the flaws.' - Joe Morgenstern/Wall Street Journal
Some violent and disturbing content, and language
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