"A Mother’s Love Will Not Be Silenced"
With CHANGELING, director Clint Eastwood finally gives moviegoers something to cheer, but the movie contains tough subject matter, including very strong evidence of violence toward children. That, and strong foul language, requires extreme caution and discernment, even for adult viewers.
Based on a true story, CHANGELING stars Angelina Jolie in an Oscar-worthy performance. Jolie plays Christine Collins, a single mother of a young boy, Walter, in Los Angeles in 1928. Christine works as a supervisor at the local telephone exchange.
One Saturday, Christine is unexpectedly called in to work because of a sick colleague. She has to break her promise to young Walter to take him to the movies that day. When she returns home, however, Walter is gone. After she searches frantically for him in the neighborhood, the police tell her over the phone that she has to wait until the next morning before they will send anyone. Children often run away and then return the next day, they assure her.
Several months pass by, however. During that time, a Presbyterian minister, played by John Malkovich, takes up Christine’s crusade to find her child. He has been fighting the corrupt LAPD for years and believes that they aren’t doing the job of protecting people like they should.
Then, a young boy matching Walter’s description is found in Dekalb, Illinois, who apparently was kidnapped by a transient who’s disappeared. The police think the boy is Walter, but when Christine meets them at the police station, she tells the detective in charge that the boy is not Walter. Using his persuasive powers, Det. Jones bullies Christine to take the boy anyway. With a horde of news photographers waiting to take more pictures, Jones tells Christine that children who have been kidnapped can change a lot and the boy doesn’t have anywhere to go right now anyway. Meanwhile, the boy adamantly maintains that he’s Christine’s son, Walter. He even knows the address where they live!
Reluctantly, a dazed Christine takes the boy home, but discovers that the boy is two inches shorter than Walter. The boy still maintains, however, that he’s her son. Also, the corrupt police, who see the return of the phony Walter as a public relations coup, keep downplaying Christine’s concerns as just emotional female confusion.
Christine and the minister keep trying to fight the corrupt police, however. When Christine gathers evidence confirming her story, including dental records and the testimony of Walter’s teacher, Det. Jones counters her strategy by throwing her in the local mental institution. Making matters worse, a mean, corrupt psychiatrist working for the police runs the mental institution and actively tries to help the police make Christine truly seem mentally deranged.
Meanwhile, another detective uncovers a gruesome crime in the nearby desert about a serial killer who has bullied a teenager into helping him murder 20 boys. The killer has left for Canada, and the teenager is now spilling the beans to the police.
Can the Christian minister find Christine in time before the evil psychiatrist has her beaten, gives her shock treatments, or worse? And, is Walter one of the victims of the mad killer in the desert?
CHANGELING is a story about a mother’s dedicated love, and a minister’s commitment, fighting police corruption. The performances are realistic, but superbly done. Angelina Jolie delivers a heartbreaking, spirited job as the wronged mother who fights back. Though this movie is ultimately more inspiring than his usual recent work, Clint Eastwood once again shows he is a master director. Except for a couple missteps, his feeling for period detail is uncanny.
CHANGELING contains some tough, often heartbreaking subject matter and disturbing scenes of violence, as well as plenty of strong foul language. As the movie’s director, Clint Eastwood makes an effort to be restrained, but the movie still has some disturbing content that warrants extreme caution.
For example, part of the story is about a serial killer who kidnaps young boys. In portraying that story, Eastwood shows two shots of the killer’s face covered in blood while swinging an ax at something. There is also one shot of a shadow of the killer swinging an ax, supposedly against one of his young victims who is off screen. Then, there are scenes of the killer shoving unwilling boys into a barn and firing a shotgun at four escaped boys running away into the dark night of the desert. Finally, Eastwood lingers on the hanging scene of the convicted killer.
The mother’s heartbreaking story also contains some disturbing scenes.
For example, when the police stuff her into the mental institution, she is hosed down nude. Little revealing is shown there, however, except for a cloudy shot of rear nudity. Secondly, the movie implies that one of the female orderlies gives the mother a humiliating examination of her private parts. Finally, another woman sent to the mental institution by the corrupt police tries to defend the mother when she stands up against her captors there. The evil psychiatrist orders the woman to get shock therapy, which is shown in detail (see the CONTENT section above for other details about the movie’s actual content).
In contrast to this disturbing content, the rest of the movie, including the ending, is positive. Ultimately, CHANGELING tells a positive story of truth conquering injustice and corruption, hope in the midst of tragedy, and the transcendent bonds between a mother and her child. In telling that compelling, dramatic and stirring story, Eastwood presents (finally) a positive view of a Christian leader, the Presbyterian minister, who is played magnificently by John Malkovich. The minister even comforts the mother in one scene, telling her that, whatever happens, she will be reunited with her son in Heaven. The movie’s positive Christian content should be stronger, of course, but at least it is strongly positive, which is more than one can say about most of today’s Hollywood movies.
Overall, therefore, CHANGELING requires extreme caution due to some strong foul language, snatches of very strong implied and depicted violence, and tough subject matter. The filmmakers are commended, however, for showing at least some restraint in these matters, and especially for including morally and spiritually uplifting content that inspires the viewer in a powerful way.
Note: Please see our summary of the movie’s CONTENT above before you or your family members decide whether to see this film.
(BB, CC, LLL, VVV, N, D, M) Strong moral worldview overall with a strong, positive portrayal of a kind, forceful Presbyterian minister who fights police corruption to help a mother in trouble, including a scene where the minister assures the mother that she will meet her missing son in Heaven and scenes of sacrifice, heroism and the defeat of evil; about 22 obscenities (including four or five “f” words), eight strong profanities and seven light profanities; snatches of very strong and strong disturbing violence includes two quick shots of man’s bloody splattered face while he’s hitting something with an ax and later it is revealed that he has been kidnapping and killing young boys, shadow of killer raising an ax against a young boy who is implicitly off screen, killer fires several shotgun blasts at four escaping boys running away into the dark night, killer shoves kidnapped boys into enclosure in barn, crying teenager tells detective that a man forced him to kill young boys with him, shot of corrupt policemen shooting a line of suspects to death without a trial, a supporting character gets shock therapy, heroine is about to get shock therapy, hanging of convicted killer is shown in disturbing detail, nude woman gets forcibly hosed down in shower, woman punches evil psychiatrist, orderlies in mental institution wrestle inmates to ground and shove them into rooms, and some female inmates in mental institution have clearly been beaten with bruises on faces, necks and arms; no sex scenes but man asks abandoned single mother out and she eventually accepts, woman illegally held in mental institution tastefully tells heroine that she was a prostitute who was beaten by a policeman and thrown in the institute when she complained, and detective makes up story that a kidnapper of children could force a boy to be circumcised for some perverted reason not mentioned; orderlies in mental institution forcibly hose down a nude woman but there is just one revealing shot with a cloudy view of woman’s rear end and little else; no alcohol; smoking; and, 1920s police corruption in Los Angeles rebuked and defeated, police officials and police doctors lie, kidnapping of children rebuked and justice brought to bear on perpetrator, female orderlies take part in abusing and humiliating inmates of mental institution but they are rebuked implicitly in movie and directly in one scene, and women and children bullied by men and officials.
Clint Eastwood’s CHANGELING stars Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins, a working single mother in 1928 Los Angeles whose young son disappears one Saturday when she unexpectedly has to work. Christine, a real life person, refuses to cooperate with corrupt police officials, who send her a boy that’s not her son. When Christine gets evidence confirming that fact, they throw her into a mental institution run by a mean psychiatrist on police payroll. A Presbyterian minister, played by John Malkovich, who tried to help Christine find her son, now tries to find Christine. Meanwhile, a police detective finds gruesome evidence in the desert that might solve the riddle of Christine’s missing son.
CHANGELING is about a mother’s dedicated love, and a minister’s commitment, fighting police corruption. The realistic performances and direction are superb. The movie contains some tough content, however – such as snatches of very strong violence, including allusions of brutal violence toward children, and strong foul language. This content deserves extreme caution, but CHANGELING ultimately tells a positive story of truth conquering injustice and corruption, and hope in the midst of tragedy. It also presents a positive portrayal of an upstanding Christian minister.