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Changeling- Overlong but classic storytelling

‘Changeling’ is a film based on the true story of the case of Christine Collins’ missing son. This mystery and crime drama takes place in Los Angeles, 1928. Everything about this time period looks picture perfect- from the automobiles to the clothes- but darker, more troubling things stir just beneath the surface.

Christine Collins, played by Angelina Jolie, is a single mom who finds her nine-year-old son Walter missing when she returns from work. Unable to file a missing report until after twenty-four hours to the police, she unsuccessfully looks all over the neighbourhood for him. The LAPD at this time is an organization with an infamous reputation of being incompetent, corrupt and guilty of misusing its power. After more than five months, they claim to have finally found Walter. In an effort to get good press, they organize a public reunion, believing it will create some positive buzz amidst the relentless criticism. However, on meeting ‘Walter’, Collins says that he is not her son, even though ‘Walter’ says otherwise. Citing drastic changes in the last couple of months, the Captain insists that Collins take him home. When Collins tries to show how this boy was physically different, the doctor sent by the LAPD gives unreasonable reasons to justify it. For example, she shows how he is three inches shorter than her son was but is then told that the trauma and stress of his abduction had “caused his spine to shrink”.

She then teams up with Reverend Gustav Briegleb, who was responsible for exposing much of the negligence of the LAPD, and tells her story to the press, the LAPD retaliates by sending her to a psychopathic ward. This eventually begs the question, what did happen to the real Walter Collins? The film begins with a small case of a distraught mother looking for her son but grows to explore the female disempowerment, political corruption, mistreatment of mental health patients and the mystery of the missing boy, which only gets darker and more horrifying as the story goes on.

Changeling has its hits and misses. For one, many of the more interesting dynamics are left unexplored (like the relationship between Christine Collins and the new ‘Walter’) while there are some monotonous, unnecessary scenes that add little depth to the movie. The long duration of the film doesn’t help in this regard either. A lot of the emotion is somewhat distanced from the characters. While it seems to be a conscious decision to keep it clean and polished, it does take away from instilling genuine feeling, especially towards the somewhat empty Christine Collins and understanding the one faceted evil Captain.

On the other hand, Changeling brings to light a series of incidences that have not only been forgotten in time but are truly stranger than fiction. Its story is unbelievably bizarre, scary and compelling, and its well-crafted, realistic approach might certainly warrant a watch.

If you haven't seen the trailer for Changeling, check it out below-

- Annapoorna Narayan, Writer for TheLucidLlama

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