Changeling

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Changeling Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Suspenseful, overlong drama isn't meant for kids.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 140 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 22 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A serial killer is on the loose, but nobody discovers his grisly misdeeds until it's far too late and many lives have been lost. A mother is clearly loving but leaves her 9-year-old alone in the house when a work emergency arises. Corrupt cops take advantage of defenseless women. Ultimately, a defenseless woman manages to tap into a deep well of courage and seeks justice. There's a very loving, close mother-son relationship.

Violence

A few gory moments, including one scene in which a murderer has blood spattered on his face, presumably because he's in the middle of a heinous crime. Women are wrongfully imprisoned in a psych ward, where they're physically forced to take medication, asked to sign documents incriminating themselves, slapped and dragged, and given electroshock therapy for insubordination. A confession scene includes stomach-turning images and descriptions. Machine guns are fired. An execution by hanging is shown from beginning to end. Loud confrontations between a criminal and the mother of one of his victims.

Sex

Mild flirting.

Language

Mostly tame, with words like "damn" and "hell," though the words "son of a bitch" and "f--k" are used in a few instances.

Consumerism

Brands and signage for Pacific Telephone & Telegraph, Bummy's Diner, KGF News Radio, Colgate, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of period-accurate smoking. Some characters are forced to take tranquilizers against their will.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this 1920s-set drama recounts real-life events that could be quite disturbing to children and young teens. It examines the disappearance of a young boy who was likely murdered; some upsetting scenes show what might have been his ghastly misfortune. There are some gory images, and wrongfully imprisoned women are treated very badly in a psych ward. Authority figures are unreliable and commit betrayals, and there's some mild swearing (including a few uses of "f--k") and period-accurate smoking.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byzeekattacklee November 20, 2015

Changeling review..

I would have to say this film was really interesting.. But on the other hand, I also kind of wondered at first why this film isn't PG-13. On that note, I... Continue reading
Parent of an infant and 5-year-old Written byjoshuaw3 July 26, 2015

Inappropriately disturbing and about 30 minutes too long

This film could have been well done, if about 30 minutes of running time was chopped off and there was more emphasis on the story and less emphasis on scenes de... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byDeepFriedTwinkie April 28, 2020

:(

I watched this at age 11. (Yeah, I know, but my parents trusted me at the time) it's a scary movie about a boy who's kidnapped by a horrible man with... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old January 9, 2013

Changeling review

It is a good film with much much to tell and should be seen over the whole world.

What's the story?

A retelling of real-life events, CHANGELING documents the harrowing circumstances a Los Angeles mother faced when the city's severely corrupt and inept police department forced her to take in a child who wasn't hers. In March 1928, 9-year-old Walter Collins vanished without a trace, only to be found five months later -- or so the cops claimed. Although his mother, Christine (Angelina Jolie), knows immediately that he isn't her son, she's pressured to take him home, convinced by police Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) that she's merely in shock. But she quickly regrets her decision and pushes back, insisting that the search for Walter be renewed. Cops and higher-ups, anxious to rid themselves of a public relations mess, throw her into a psych ward, but Christine is resolute, especially when she discovers she has the backing of a local preacher (John Malkovich) hell-bent on unmasking the police department's faults. In the meantime, a wayward teen (Eddie Alderson) may hold the answers to Walter's disappearance.

Is it any good?

Suspenseful and stirring, Changeling is fine moviemaking in full display. Director Clint Eastwood's light touch is apparent, emphasizing storytelling above all else. And why not? The material is certainly compelling (though some details were changed). Jolie is impeccable as a mother shoved to the brink of sanity. Noticeably de-glammed, her grieving mother almost makes us forget that she's half of a very starry celebrity couple.

And yet: Changeling does suffer, if only for a little bit. While the first two hours pass by swiftly and movingly, the tale goes slack when it chases every last detail to its end. Christine's stay at the psych ward, two parallel court cases, even another mother's luck at finding her own boy -- they're fascinating plot threads, but they ultimately serve to diminish all that came before. Perfect (or near-perfect) movies know when to end; this one, sadly, does not.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages. What does it say about people in positions of authority? Is the implication that all such people are unreliable, or just the characters in the movie? Why do you think Christine was betrayed the way she was? Do you think something like this could happen today? How would you characterize director Clint Eastwood's approach to telling this story? Families can also discuss the film's accuracy. Why might filmmakers bend the truth when making a movie based on real life? How could you find out more about Christine's case if you wanted to?

Movie details

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