If you decide to go, just know that this is a very sad movie.
You may be among the many who have resisted seeing “The Changeling” because of its subject. Children in peril are not a natural draw for audiences troubled by a world in peril and looking for distraction. If you decide to go, just know that this is a very sad movie. It is also far too long.
So why even consider seeing it? Clint Eastwood’s direction, for one thing; his music for another. Even if it doesn’t necessarily turn to gold, whatever he touches becomes compelling. He makes Angelina Jolie’s face the constant focus of his camera. Jolie has proven many times that she is an actor worthy of this attention. As the single mother of a kidnapped son, she avoids histrionics entirely and offers the screen a crushed mother desperately looking for help from any quarter. She does nothing to distract from the real horror of her situation. We could wish the makeup people had used a lighter touch on her eyes and lips to avoid the ghoulish look that she does not have off screen.
Clint Eastwood has taken this story from the headlines of Los Angeles n 1928 when the Los Angeles Police Department was already suffering from corruption scandals that had made it a national joke. After young Walter Collins disappears, the department tries to refresh its image by returning a look-alike boy they have found in De Kalb, Illinois. There cannot be any mother on this earth whose heart doesn’t go out to Christine (Jolie) when she insists the boy is not her son. A mother knows her child, and only five months have passed. But Christine, caught in an extraordinary web of political corruption, is hustled to the county insane asylum by the police who are trying to burnish their image.
Am I naďve? Is it possible that every cop, doctor, nurse, and official in this awful real life nightmare was a sadist? Clint Eastwood has taken his usual great care in creating a period piece, but with exception of a very few, his people are stick figures, most of them monstrous. The streets of Los Angeles, the cars, the railroad station, the reporters with press passes stuck in their fedora brims, radios, the one phone in the front hall – all terrific. Take for example, the exactly recreated telephone switchboard where Christine is a supervisor (on roller skates). We know instinctively that the sets are right but there isn’t a person in that whole line of workers who is seems real.
Among the stick figures, some come alive. John Malkovich plays an evangelical minister who comes to Christine’s side. Detective Ybarra (Michael Kelly) is believable as the cop who finally believes one young boy. Eddie Alderson gives heartbreaking worth to the boy, Sanford Clark. But the camera is fixed on Angelina Jolie’s suffering, and she suffers well. You will not forget this movie. The question is: are you up to the ordeal?
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