Changeling Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
Note: This review contains spoilers.
Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) was an unnoticed resident of a 1920s Los Angeles suburb until the day she returned home from work and discovered her son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith), had disappeared. Her pleas with the police to help her find her child began a hunt that would develop into one of the most infamous cases of child kidnappings and killings on record—and expose some municipal corruption as well.
Recounting many of the actual events, this Clint Eastwood film approaches its macabre subject from Christine’s perspective. Dealing with the LAPD and its already tarnished reputation, the anxious parent pesters Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) for five months to find this missing person. When a boy meeting Walter’s description is located, the department seizes the opportunity to create some positive press. But the well-photographed reunion doesn’t go exactly as planned, because the mom declares the youngster (Devon Conti) isn’t hers. Desperate to display a positive public image, Captain Jones refuses to admit the possibility of a mistake and orders Christine to "try him out for a couple of weeks."
Eventually, after experts fail to convince her the child is her son, Christine returns the misidentified boy to police. In return, Captain Jones has the grieving mother forcibly placed in a mental asylum (apparently a popular tactic used at the time to deal with difficult citizens—especially women.)
Meanwhile we are introduced to Sanford Clark (Eddie Alderson), a young boy from Canada who has been apprehended on immigration violations while living on a chicken ranch just outside of Los Angeles. While in custody awaiting deportation, he begins confessing the sordid details of a series of malicious murders he has witnessed.
A story about a serial killer is obviously not going to be family friendly material. However, this film’s main purpose is not to dwell on how grisly the killings were (although we are privy to a couple of horrific flashback scenes of a man wielding a blood-dripping ax on an unseen victim). Instead, it sets out to demonstrate the dishonesty of the LAPD and their attitude toward nuisances who got in their way. In tackling these topics, Changeling shines with powerful performances and intriguing writing, as well as sets and costumes that immerse audiences in the time period.
Along with the noted implications of brutal slayings, this mature-themed movie depicts men being shot by a firing squad, a woman subjected to a body cavity search (details not seen), young boys being physically abused and an explicit portrayal of a man executed by hanging. There are also discussions regarding prostitution, circumcision and a reference to abortions. Profanities, while infrequent, include four sexual expletives.
With all the twists and turns in this tragic tale, it is surprising no one has tried to adapt it into cinematic entertainment sooner. Yet putting morbid curiosity aside, the film illustrates that one person can fight city hall—especially if she’s armed with the determination of a mother’s love.
Starring Clint Eastwood, Angelina Jolie, Colm Feore, Amy Ryan.. Running time: 139 minutes. Theatrical release October 27, 2008. Updated March 5, 2009
Rating & Content Info
Why is Changeling rated R? Changeling is rated R by the MPAA for some violent and disturbing content, and language.Rated R in the United States, this movie portrays the actual events surrounding the disappearance of a young Los Angeles boy in 1928. Depictions of an adult using a blood-covered ax to kill children (we don’t see the victims) are included, along with detailed verbal descriptions of these acts. A man is executed by hanging, which we see in detail. Men are shot in a firing squad. Bones from human remains are seen. A woman is forcibly confined in a mental institution where her clothes are removed and she is spayed by water in a shower and subjected to a cavity search (no explicit nudity is seen). A woman is subjected to electric shock treatments. Profanities, while infrequent, include four sexual expletives, some terms of Christian deity. Discussions regarding prostitution, circumcision, syphilis and abortions are included. Infrequent cigarette smoking is seen.
Page last updated March 5, 2009
Changeling Parents' Guide
This movie asserts that Los Angeles police authorities did not take women seriously during this time period. Do you think similar situations exist in our society today? What methods did Christine Collins use to change this attitude?
To read about the actual events surrounding the story depicted in this film, check these pages of historical clippings from the Los Angeles Times:
The most recent home video release of Changeling movie is February 18, 2009. Here are some details…
The Changeling movie morphs onto DVD with two featurettes: Partners in Crime (aka—director Clint Eastwood and actress Angelina Jolie) and The Common Thread (how Angelina Jolie became Christine Collins). Presented in widescreen, the disc offers audio tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English and French).
Changeling is also available on Blu-ray. This disc provides all of the extras found on the DVD edition, plus interactive features (scene access and menus), U-Control (Archives, Los Angeles: Then and Now and Picture in Picture) and BD-Live. Audio tracks are recorded in English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) and French (DTS 5.1 Surround).
Related home video titles:
Changeling deals with themes of child abduction, serial killers and police corruption. A super hero sets out to clean up a city dirtied by criminals and bad cops in Batman Begins. Actress Angelina Jolie plays another woman willing to do anything to protect a loved in A Mighty Heart (which is based on the real-life kidnapping and execution of journalist Daniel Pearl).