A story so heart-breaking and intense that you will it to its close out of a real sense of suspense, only to then wish you had savoured its powerful scenes more.
Set in the 1920s, this heart-breaking story (based on true events) brings us into the life of single mother Christine Collins, who is devoted to her young son Walter, but is also struggling to strike a balance between work and home life. She wants to do fun things with her nine-year-old son but she also wants to be taken seriously in her male-dominated workplace. So when she's called in to work at short notice one Saturday she feels she has to oblige to get on. But it's a decision that will later haunt her.
When she returns home from work Walter is nowhere to be seen. A search of the neighbourhood proves unfruitful and the police prove unhelpful (a young child has to be missing at least 24 hours before any action can be taken). But as the time ticks on Christine suspects that there is a sinister element at play. She's fobbed off by the police, who are widely proclaimed to be corrupt by local preacher man Rev Gustav Briegleb (Malkovich).
Eventually Captain JJ Jones (Donovan) brings news of a sighting of a boy matching Walter's description but the reunion that results isn't all that it had promised to be. Christine is horrified to discover that the boy who is presented to her is not her son, a claim which falls on deaf ears. Forced to take him home and live as mother and son, Christine decides to take on the law to rectify the situation but she could never have imagined the abuses of power and levels of corruption that she would meet with in her bid to find the truth, that would hopefully lead her to her son.
'Changeling' is a powerfully-told story, exploring the depths of the bond between mother and child and the extraordinary lengths a parent will go to for their family. It is charged, with raw emotion from start to finish yet is more compelling that it is disturbing or upsetting.
Angelina Jolie is Oscar-worthy in her portrayal of a broken-hearted mother, who knows no boundaries in the hunt for her missing son. Her sense of loss and mourning is palpable throughout and it is her take on this deeply personal story that carries the film so smoothly. John Malkovich is also note-worthy as the interfering, yet well-meaning, reverend, who likes nothing better than a battle with the law, while Jeffrey Donovan plays the jumped-up, always-right police captain to perfection.
Direction, under the trusted hand of Clint Eastwood, is assured, resulting in a movie that flows at just the right pace, reeling you in more and more with every scene. It should feel a bit dragged out clocking in at over two hours but the movie never seems to lag.
'Changeling' will make you take sides. It will make you really feel for its protagonist, in its portrayal of her harrowing ordeal and it will leave with a certain sense of hope, in spite of its often grim nature.