Skip navigation

Los Angeles in the 1920s. A mother says good bye to her little son, when she comes home after work he is gone. The police is hesitant and of not much help, but when they find a boy slightly resembling the lost boy’s looks, they bring him back to the mother, who straight out claims that this is not her son. Her resistance is not taken kindly by a police force under pressure from the city government, the public and some activist groups, and they react harshly by putting the mother away into a sanatorium where she meets other women that came there through similar collisions with police authority. During all this, in a parallel investigation, a police officer follows a lead that brings him to uncover a series of abduction and murder.

The thing I first thought about when the film was over was that I just had witnessed some Zodiac’ish things happening here: the story not ending, but continuing over years and years without proper resolution and little hope of ever getting one. The overall story stretches over more than five years, but in contrast to Zodiac, there are interesting and thrilling elements continuing the narrative flow. Both films are based on trues stories, which in Changeling is particularly important to point out, because otherwise one is tempted to accuse the script writer of juggling one or two balls too many. This is the better designed narration, the better script than Zodiac, it holds together better despite the fact that the story is more incredible, more dispersed, and equally unresolved. Whenever such a fragmented story comes along, it is up to the actors to hold it together and keep enthusing the audiences for their cause. Also in this: Changeling is better, Angelina Jolie is brilliantly composed, never hysterical, always on the verge. She is a fighting mother, but never leaves her 20s wife role. John Malkovich (sorry, man, did not recognize you first…) is an energetic pain-in-the-arse, and my very favourite is the very physical, incredulous-looking and yet professionally and ethically acting Inspector who uncovers things that the police rather not had uncovered – being the bravest character in the whole lot, as he has alternatives, and must actively chose each time he encounters them.

There are very few moments where the script could not help but be overtly overt (sorry…), such as when the wrong kid briefly mentions that it all wasn‘t his idea, but it was the police who said he was the other kid. We would have guessed that, especially given the slightly over-evil depiction of the police Captains and Chiefs. The nice thing about the film – speaking plot-wise – is that there is no need to decide on who has done what, as nobody knows. The scenes with the child murderer, the memories of his collaborator, the capture and trial and punishment all add to this: to a big puzzle, but so many missing pieces. It’s brave to do that in a film, and it could have done a bit braver. Very impressive film, though.

Kermode’s Review here

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: