Clint Eastwood has made a career out of making the most of minimal emotion. His grim jawed cowboys, cops and hard man made famous, single lines of menace but almost always on the side of the right and oppressed. A most masculine of heroes.
Behind the camera however he exudes a calm and a confidence. With the gentlest of motions he start a scene and allows the actor to maintain their character and step into frame. While his steel eyed squint and muscular frame give the impression of ruffian or rogue, he conveys a very real and honest emotion in the stories he tells and the music he writes.
And so it is with Changeling, a film in which he directs, that allows Angelina Jolie to play single mother Christine Collins. The story is a simple one: Set in 1928 Los Angeles, Collins goes off to work one Saturday leaving her 9 year old son Walter at home by himself. When she returns he is gone.
Jolie is a fine actress who successfully communicates a strong but vulnerable woman without overwrought emotion. A good choice for a director like Eastwood. As Collins, Jolie uses her large soulful eyes to convey a pitiable character that we empathise with and urge onwards in her quest to find her son. She wears a cloche hat during most of the film, a fitted bell shaped hat popular in the ‘20s. Jolie said that her costume allowed her to ‘put on’ her shy character and she often looks up at you from under the brim of her hat as though hiding behind it. But this belies her inner strength as she time and again gets back up to fight the bureaucracy that keeps her from learning the truth. She played a similar role in A Mighty Heart, as a wife who waits to hear of news of her reporter husband, kidnapped by terrorists in Pakistan. She was nominated for a Best Actress nomination in Changeling.
What happens to her son is the narrative that drives the story forward. While we observe corrupt and political police officers and hospital attendants there are good men too that both do their job and champion her cause.
We watch in quiet horror as this “true story” is played out before us. Later in the film, during a court case, a prosecutor articulates our disgust and revolution over what has happened. We are gratified to have someone stand up for the injustices that Christine Collins has received. The story keeps returning us to Collins who earns our respect as a woman who endures in this real life suburban horror. 4 out of 5 from me.