Changeling, a 2008 movie by Clint Eastwood, is one of the finest films I’ve watched in recent times. It’s a lengthy and complex, yet consistently gripping drama, and one of the most remarkable things about it is that it is based – I gather, quite closely – on real-life events.
The setting is Los Angeles, and the story opens in 1928. Angelina Jolie plays a hard-working single mother, Christine Carter, who returns one day from her office to find that her nine-year old son Walter has vanished without a trace. Some time later, the police find a boy who says he is Walter. Amidst a fanfare of publicity, Christine and Walter are reunited. The only snag is that the mother denies that the boy is her son.
The police are insistent, and when she protests, she is treated as delusional. We gather that the LAPD of the time was up to its ears in corruption, and there are shocking scenes when the Christine is treated as a psychopath and locked up in a dreadful asylum. But events take a sudden turn when a cop who is not mired in corruption is told a horrifying story by a young boy. It emerges that a madman called Northcott has been kidnapping, abusing and killing boys at his remote ranch. The question then is - was Walter one of the victims?
I thought Jolie’s performance was excellent, and the film as a whole was moving and memorable. The jazz-influenced music sounded as though it might have been written by John Barry, but I was taken aback to discover that it was composed by Eastwood himself. Truly, a man of many talents.