Computer hacker, coke-head supermodel, cyborg, collector of bones, sociopathic mental patient, the world’s hottest archaeologist (with pout), mail-order bride, humanitarian aid worker, Colin Farrell’s mom, and professional assassin (twice) — her roles have been diverse but today none could be more appropriate for Angelina Jolie than that of mother.
In ‘Changeling’, the serial collector of children plays single mom Christine Collins. She dotes on her son, Walter, but the demands of her job mean the nine-year-old has developed quite an independent streak. So when she’s unexpectedly called in to work on a weekend, she thinks little of leaving him home alone. It is quiet, suburban Los Angeles in 1929, after all.
But on her return, he’s gone. And the cops are less than cooperative — her despair, and later quiet resolve, as well as the persistent public badgering from Reverend Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) are distractions from the real job at hand: corruption. Finally, after five months of increasing public outrage, LAPD Juvenile Division Captain J. J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) reunites mother and son. Except the boy he’s found isn’t Walter but another child, the proverbial changeling.
And with the police department now claiming to have done its job, while Collins lives with a child who is not hers, a tragic and deeply disturbing real-life horror unfolds. Jolie provides the ragged emotion — her strong-willed but initially eager to please parent slowly reveals an unwavering resilience and, in scenes recalling her Oscar winning turn in ‘Girl, Interrupted’, flashes of wild fire. Director Clint Eastwood provides the lush, pedestrian visual style that recalls vintage Hollywood, his quiet, delicate approach bordering on the sentimental. And the actual events of the Christine Collins case — played, of course, to maximum heart-wrenching effect — provide the genuine feelings of disbelief and helplessness needed to embrace this story.
For two hours we share in the turmoil of a real mother, not the world’s most photographed woman just playing another part. Forget Walter, Jolie is the real changeling here.
- This article originally appeared on iafrica.com.