Saturday, 21 February 2009


Interesting, if not a simple, example of a mother's desperation...

In 1928, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), a single parent and working class woman in Los Angeles,  leaves her son, Walter (Gattlin Grifith), at home to attend a last-minute work schedule. By the time she returns she discovers that Walter is missing and files a missing child's report. Over the next few months Christine attempts to search for her son by any means possible, yet the LAPD discover a stranded boy who they believe to be Walter. Upon being reunited with her son, Christine's joy turns to dismay as she discovers that the boy is not her son, even though he claims to be.

Based upon true events the film automatically gains a shocking realism in conjunction to it's subject matter, which develops into a frightening case as the film progresses. What starts off as a simple case of a child going missing, turns into a complex matter of police incompetence and the desperate struggle of a mother. But this is not to say that the film flows from point to point without any hitches. While the first three quarters are intriguing to watch, especially with the addition of a hint of horror elements adding spice to the drama, the first half the film's final quarter drags the film to a standstill. The main reason for this is that by the time the last quarter starts, you'll already know how the film is going to end, even if you have no idea about the events on which the film is based. It's predictable what will happen to Walter, what becomes of Christine, and what becomes of the LAPD, but the film attempts to drag its run time by making these issues seem suspenseful. This falls directly within the film's major problem, the lack of ambiguity. From the  very outset we know what Walter looks like ,and the boy claiming to be him later in the story only partially resembles him. Clint Eastwood never allows for the audience to question the integrity of Christine,  such as many people at the time would have most likely done as well. The very chance to make the film more believable is never played upon.

But beyond that there is very little to criticize the film except for the fact that Christine never really places any blame on herself for leaving her child alone in the house at a time when many children were going missing. It's a small thing, and her self-blame could be read into her actions, but it appears that she is too willing to blame outside factors and never really accept that she should have done more then just have the neighbours go over to check on Walter, which itself is never played upon because it is never stated whether the neighbours did or did not.

Nevertheless, the acting which is top notch. Every major character does a great job of showcasing their respective character with realism. Angelina Jolie steals the show: her bodily expressions in conjunction with the pure veracity of her emotions and speech is breathtaking. When she is happy, Jolie has a glow to her; when she is desperate and angered at the loss of her child, Jolie is every inch the mother you would expect her to be. Jeffrey Donovan, as Captain Jones, is smug as he should be and annoyed at the constant plea from Christine. Michale Kelly comes across as interested and sympathetic as his character, Detective Ybarra, should have been when investigating the cases of missing children. If there is a little disappointment it would be John Malcovich as Reverend Briegleb, but not because he underachieves but because there is not enough screen time to allow Malcovich to really play with the role. He comes across as a little stifled, but this doesn't stop some good acting on his part.

There is no sex, nudity and minimum language. Violence is kept for the latter half of the film but is performed in flashbacks, occur very quickly and the victim is off-screen, though that doesn't stop them being quite haunting.

The Changeling is a good film, though not quite one of Eastwood's best. Yes the acting ensemble is really good, especially from Jolie, and there is an interesting plot. However this does not stop the film being predictable and not as suspenseful as it ought to be, and the main case of this is the lack of ambiguity. Everything in the Changeling is far too stated which, for the real life events themselves, was not the case.


Screen date: 20 February 2009
Release date: 20 February 2009