One could be forgiven, watching this period melodrama, mistaking it for a 1930s or 40’s Hollywood production: because Clint Eastwood’s careful mounting of this sadly true tale is very much of that period.
The actual story, of a missing child questionably returned to his Los Angeles single mother, happened in the 1920’s and ‘30s. Amazingly, the cops there, wanting a quick resolution to the case, publicly reunited the woman with a boy not her own, forcing her to take that child and keep quiet about it. With the help of a publicity minded, and pretty fed up local clergyman, the truth is not only told, but the corrupt LA Police Department is taken down with it.
Angelina Jolie does a fine job here, as does co-star John Malcovich, portraying these historical figures with respect and dignity. Both actors put a lid on their usual glistening star power, subjugating their own glamour to the work at hand. And Eastwood, paying careful attention to period detail and style, does the same. It’s an impressive, unsettling and not altogether thrilling piece of work, much like the old black and white, female driven dramas that were made by the dozens back when there was no television and entertainment hungry audiences flocked to theaters on a regular basis.
Just as a footnote: when I saw this movie, at a very early screening, before all the commercials and publicity hit, one of the bonuses in it for me, as a viewer, was discovering this pretty awful, true story. Now that the “surprises” of it are widely known, I’m not sure the enthralling process of watching the story unfold hasn’t been terribly compromised, tarnishing the rewards for the audience. I’m just saying.