Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Colm Feore, Jason Butler Harner, Amy Ryan, Michael Kelly
“Changeling” is a period film based on the true story of a woman in California in the 1920s whose son is kidnapped, rescued and returned to his mother.
Unbelievable as this may sound, the boy of 9, Walter Collins, is indeed abducted from his own neighborhood while his mother, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), is at work. Miraculously Walter is found and returned to Christine. The only problem is the boy is not her son.
The direction by Clint Eastwood of this story gives a credible explanation as to how a police force could deliver a child to a mother and insist that the child is indeed her biological son. And there lies the power of this story. Christine was undaunted in her certainty that the boy was not her child. The only problem was in getting somebody to believe her.
That somebody is manifested in Reverend Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) who has long suspected corruption in the police force. He follows the newspaper accounts of the story and contacts Christine asking for the facts as to why she doubts her son’s identity.
This film is compelling. Christine shows what any mother would do — not accept a child that was not her own. To dare to challenge the establishment and take on the police force only served to have Christine committed into an insane asylum.
A fellow patient (Amy Ryan) befriends Christine and opens Christine’s eyes to the many women who challenged the illegal undertaking of various police officers. When the women would try to demand justice, they were thrown in mental hospitals and left to rot.
That was not the case here because Christine’s story was groundbreaking in going to court to reveal publicly the corruption and to implement laws that safeguards a person’s legal rights when entering a mental facility.
The story itself is more detailed and in-depth with a candid picture of life for women in the 1920s. That alone gives this film merit.
Unfortunately the time it took to get the audience there detracted from the overall power of the film. There was too much melodrama and stereotypical performances that marred an otherwise remarkable story.
John Malcovich as the church leader is blaringly patronizing for his own means. Michael Kelly as the detective who gets to the truth of this story is solid. But it is Amy Ryan’s performance as an unfairly committed mental patient that shines from the power and conviction she gives to her character.
Chic Stars: Three Chic Stars
Jan’s Movie Rating System:
5 – Top-notch entertainment
4 – Compelling, Heartwarming, Thrilling, Comical
3 – The a) story b) actors c) special effects saved/made this movie.
2 – If you are bored, watch it, or wait for DVD
1 – Don’t bother. Too morose, too violent, too blasè, an enigma.
Photo: Courtesy of If Magazine