According to folklore, a changeling refers to the offspring of a fairy, troll or other mythical creatures which is secretly left as a replacement when a human child is kidnapped from its mother. The changeling would then feed on the mother, sucking her dry until all life is gone from her.
An apt title indeed for this Clint Eastwood period drama based on a true, shocking event. Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins, a woman who comes home one day to discover that her beloved son Walter has disappeared from their home without a trace. Her frantic search tapers off into hopelessness until one day months later she is told by the police that he has been found well and alive.
Only problem is, the boy is not her son. Horrified and shattered, she tries to tell the police that they have made a mistake, but the abysmally corrupt LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department), greedy for positive publicity, would have none of it, instead accusing her of losing her mind, trying to disown her son, etc. Unwilling to back down without finding out the true whereabouts of her son, she strikes back with the help of a radio preacher named Reverend Gustav Briegleb.
With Jolie’s larger-than-life, alpha female persona, it is hard to imagine her as a meek, vulnerable woman who initially lets herself be chauvinistically browbeaten in a manner that is almost certainly a call to arms for the gender equality movement of today. But the big-lipped one indeed renders an admirable performance, as she juggles feminine submissiveness with the boldness of one determined to defeat the Goliath of her time. Of course, she is buoyed by an equally strong supporting cast of John Malkovich as the crusading reverend and Jeffrey Donovan as the wonderfully hateful Captain Jones of the LAPD.
While the movie sometimes goes over the top with melodramatic touches such as conveniently timed downpours and clandestine setups in the fight against evil, the intensity of the tale at hand is not lost. Eastwood’s genius here is in how he alternates between bereaved mama-drama, suspenseful whodunit and bureaucratic atrocities in a seamless, ever-engaging pace and manner.
As a result, he spins an altogether affective story about how the inextinguishable love of a mother opened up a Pandora’s Box of corruption and falsities, ultimately exposing the diabolical workings of an unchecked authority. The last half an hour admittedly feels a bit draggy with its many post-climax developments but hey, it’s based on a real life event after all, so do not expect any neat ending, dear audience.
This is a movie for anyone who wants to be reminded of not only the injustices in our fallen world, but more importantly, the imperative of standing up for truth and fairness.