A life is torn apart when a young boy goes missing, for the youngster returned to his mother by the LAPD is not her son. They insist he is. score

moviereview rates films from
1 (unwatchable) to 5 (unmissable)
Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Kelly, Jason Butler Harner

Clint Eastwood

J. Michael Stracynski


Rating / Running Time
MA / 141 minutes

Australian Release
February 2009

Official Site

(c) moviereview 2006-2009
ABN 72 775 390 361
It’s a dark day for any parent when their child goes missing. More so when that child never returns. Imagine Christine Collins’ unique pain when the police find a boy who is not her missing son yet insist otherwise. In fact, they bring in specialists to prove she’s wrong, then incarcerate her for continuing to cause trouble. In Clint Eastwood’s Los Angeles of the late 1920’s, human rights are administered by an LAPD that will not broker dissent.

In adapting an incident that ultimately changed the way Los Angeles did business, Eastwood has created yet another modern classic. Based on a true story, Changeling is a mesmerising film that’s got the lot: period appeal, wrongful arrest, missing children, corrupt police, a serial killer, a renegade priest, hospitalisation, courtroom drama and a righteous fight for justice.

Yet it is so much more than the high notes. Changeling is a distressing study of a mother’s love, and a person’s refusal to concede defeat despite the horrors inflicted upon them. Police refusal to admit wrongdoing is the pin around which Collin’s tragic story revolves and as she quickly empties her limited arsenal, luck plays a hand to underscore the fragility of her tenuous circumstances. A more contemporary theme is hard to imagine, one that remains exhilarating despite the rock of sadness on which it sits.

Central to the success of Changeling is elegant, seductive camera work by Eastwood regular Tom Stern (Mystic River). His eloquent style powerfully embraces the emotional subtext, delivering greater punch to Angelina Jolie’s bravura, Oscar nominated performance. It’s a masterful pact. There remain occasional misgivings, notably when the zeitgeist invades the film for popular appeal (would a respectable woman ever be sufficiently provoked to curse like a navvy?), yet they’re so minor as to be barely worth mentioning.

From a workaday opening to the grandeur of closing scenes, Changeling is the kind of film they simply don’t make any more – a common refrain surrounding Eastwood’s recent output. Yet it is a claim that here rings louder than ever. This is the unmissable work of a master.