Almost Too Difficult To Watch – “Changeling” (Spoiler Alert)
Based on a true story, “Changeling” starring Angelina Jolie, is a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching beast of a movie. It tells the story of Christine Collins, a hard working single mother who left for work on a hazy Saturday morning in 1928, leaving her son Walter home alone. When she returns, he is gone – vanished without a trace – and the search is on.
The tale unfolds in maddening directions as the corrupt police department, eager to keep their shady image clean, brings her a boy that they insist is her son. She takes one look at him and knows that he an imposter who is somehow pretending to be her child. The light of frenzied flash bulbs illuminate her as she pleads for someone to find her child and in the glare of the public eye, she is taken away to a mental institution and told she is insane.
Meanwhile, a child is discovered on a desolate farm, far from the L.A. His eyes are haunted and he tells a story to the police that is gruesome beyond belief. Boys, caught and held like cattle, were then subjected to the ultimate terror of facing death by axe-blade at the hands of a madman. The child pointed shaking fingers at police snapshots of missing boys as he recognized them, but his finger stopped shaking when he saw Walter, his eyes widening with shock.
Christine eventually receives kindness in the form of John Malkovich’s character, the activist Reverend Briegleb who brings her out of the asylum and provides support for her case. Together they fight against a seedy, defunct police organization in the ultimate quest to recover her lost son. As to whether he survived or not, the answer is out there, but not for me (or Christine) to know.
As a single mom, this story gives me chills. My eyes tear up as I write these words… a child, missing. Perhaps dead. And in such a terrifying way. It’s unspeakable. The actual crimes are highlighted as flashbacks and to watch the fear grow in those little boys’ eyes is sad beyond belief. The mother in me wanted to reach through the screen to pull those helpless children to safety.
Jolie brings the mourning pain of her character to life through the sadness shining from her eyes. The film itself, directed with quiet intensity by Clint Eastwood, is beautiful to look at and powerful to experience. When the movie ends, the images resonate.
Beware, mothers. To watch this film is to take a journey into the darkness of a parent’s worst fear. The sanctity of your dreams will be violated and you’ll find yourself, as I did, checking on your children as they sleep.