This profoundly disturbing story is based on events that actually took place in the late 1920s/early ’30s in Los Angeles.
Single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), the first female supervisor at the Pacific Telephone and Telegraphic Company, is plunged into a sinister nightmare when her nine year-old son Walter disappears without a trace. Several months later, when authorities locate a boy (Devon Conti) in DeKalb, Illinois, claiming to be Walter and send him back, she realizes there’s been a mistake. This child is three inches shorter than Walter–and circumcised.
But Police Capt. J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) doesn’t believe Collins’ quiet insistence, “This is not my son.” Collins’ only ally is Rev. Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), a Presbyterian community activist battling the notoriously corrupt city bureaucracy. Under pressure from LAPD Chief (Colm Feore) when courageously indefatigable Ms. Collins refuses to abandon the search for her real son, Capt. Jones orders her committed to a psychiatric ward, where she’s befriended by another inmate (Amy Ryan). Meanwhile, Det. Lester Ybarra (Michael Kelly) arrests an illegal Canadian immigrant, teenage Sanford Clark (Eddie Anderson), who leads him to a grisly graveyard at a remote farm belonging to his psychotic uncle, twitchy Gordon Northcott (Jason Butler Harner).
J. Michael Straczynski’s episodic screenplay pivots around the vulnerability of women, embodied by Angelina Jolie’s subdued yet heartbreakingly powerful performance. Director/producer Clint Eastwood’s disciplined, straightforward approach, deeply affecting in its dignity, is evidenced as the construction and pace of every scene pulsates with truth. Eastwood re-creates that socio-cultural context in the fabled City of Angels, even having Collins efficiently maneuver around the immense switchboard on roller-skates.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to10, “Changeling” is an elusive 8. Exploring oppression and corruption. Eastwood is s cinematic storyteller of extraordinary eloquence.