Changeling



Drama (1987)
134mins W Ger

Starring: Katharina Bacarelli, Friederike Bruheim, Henning Gissel
Director: Sohrab Shahid Saless
Writer(s): Jurgen Breest
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland



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LondonNet Film Review
Changeling

Angelina Jolie makes a strong bid for an Oscar nomination with her tour de force portrayal of a crusading mother in Clint Eastwood's harrowing drama...

Changeling. Copyright:  2008 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.Based on shocking true events from the Los Angeles police files, elegantly adapted for the screen by J Michael Straczynski, Changeling is a cautionary tale about the abuse of power and the extraordinary influence of one individual on a corrupt system. Eastwood underscores Tom Stern's flawless cinematography with his own mournful orchestral score to evoke the twilight years of the '20s, an era of post-war prosperity when families could leave their doors open at night.

Against this impressively recreated canvas of restrictive fashions and gleaming, vintage cars, single mother Christine Collins (Jolie) raises her nine-year-old son Walter (Gattlin Griffith) by working long hours as a supervisor at the city's telephone exchange. When her boy gets into a brawl at school, she counsels him: "Rule number one: never start a fight, always finish it." Those words will come back to haunt her sooner than she thinks. One weekend, Christine is unexpectedly called into work and when she returns home, Walter has disappeared without trace. After months of fearing the worst, Captain JJ Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) contacts Christine with incredible news: Walter has been found safe and well in a neighbouring state and is on his way back home.

Overcome with joy, the mother races to the train station to meet her son, except the boy (Devon Conti) who claims to be Walter is an impostor. With the press swarming, and Captain Jones desperate for a happy ending, the mother is forced against her will to take in the child as if he were her son. "He has nowhere else to go," the police officer whispers, using emotional blackmail as his last resort. When Christine threatens to expose the lie, Captain Jones panics. "Are you a derelict mother or are you nuts because where I sit those are the only options?" he sneers, despatching her to the mental asylum until she signs a statement that the returned boy is indeed Walter. Just as all hope seems lost, crusading Presbyterian preacher Reverend Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) and his allies launch a campaign to release Christine from her bondage and expose corruption in the LAPD.

Changeling unfolds without fuss or fanfare at the leisurely pace which has become Eastwood's style, cutting back and forth between Christine's story and a parallel police investigation to apprehended suspected child serial killer Gordon Northcott (Jason Butler Harner). The two narrative strands collide head-on in a brilliantly orchestrated interrogation room sequence, during which Northcott's nephew (the mesmerising Eddie Alderson), reveals Walter's horrific fate. Production designer James J Murakami recreates the period with meticulous attention to detail in the bustling street scenes. Jolie is sensational as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, who screams and shouts for justice, fearful that she might not get the answers she wants. We share her sense of outrage, shedding tears as the asylum's insidious head doctor (Denis O'Hare) threatens to destroy Christine's resolve with electro-shock therapy. Donovan is equally compelling as a chauvinistic bully determined to restore his department's tarnished reputation, opposite a restrained supporting turn from Malkovich as the man of God who correctly warns Christine: "They will do anything within their power to discredit you."

- Kim Hu

Video interviews of Angelina Jolie, Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich >>

LondonNet Film Review
Changeling

Looking to feed your cinema addiction but strapped for cash? Then you'll love Changeling, Clint Eastwood's Prohibition-era crime drama that splits into at least three films by the end of its two hours and 20 minutes...

Christine Collins (ANGELINA JOLIE) is introduced to a boy claiming to be hers by Captain J.J. Jones (JEFFREY DONOVAN) in a provocative thriller that tells the shocking tale of a mother's quest to find her son, and those who won't stop until they silence her--The real-life events behind Changeling provided perfect Hollywood material, even if they're so bizarre it's hard to believe they're unembellished. And that's one bold claim the movie makes, announcing itself as a "true story" without any of the lenience that comes with adding "based on a".

Los Angeles-based telephone operator Christine Collins (an extra-emaciated, extra-lipsticked Angelina Jolie) leaves for work one morning in March 1928, leaving her 9-year-old son, Walter, at home. Walter is missing by the time single mother Christine returns home, and before long the LA Police Department are scouring the country for the boy.

When the police find "Walter" in Illinois, they expect both mum and press to gush. But from their train-station meeting onward, Christine insists the boy isn't hers. She runs the emotional gamut while arguing with Police Captain JJ Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) that it's not shock making her doubt the tot's identity and that she doesn't need to give him a "trial run" at home. The LAPD, exposed for corruption by the likes of Presbyterian Reverend Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), go so far as to place Christine in a mental institution to shut her up.

Changeling pulls together to be sufficiently entertaining, but melodramatic twists make the film more of a hold-your-hat breeze than a gale-force wind. A conversation about hope is particularly groan-worthy, as is Christine's explanation of why she raises Walter alone (prepare for imaginary boxes of responsibility in the post).

Jolie convincingly bounces between the spittle-flying rage, blank-eyed emotional flatness and weepy desperation that any mother would experience in such a state. But J Michael Straczynski's meandering script (a particularly Perry Mason interrogation leads to courtroom drama, which headbutts horror film-style flashbacks) under serves a rattling tale of maternal persistence and police force depravity.

- Jill Hilbrenner


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