Changeling

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

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 21 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.

User Reviews

Adult Written bythegiveramw January 26, 2009

Amazing movie, not incredibly appropriate for childen

The movie was well written and directed, although many of the scence were dark (very dim lighting). There are some grapic displays of violence (gunning people d... Continue reading
Parent of a 1, 8, 10, and 14 year old Written bythejokerspencil February 17, 2009

Fantastic

One of the greatest of 2008 but very thematic and disturbing
Kid, 11 years old March 7, 2009

Changeling is one of the best movies I've seen

Since, I've posted my reviews on other movie websites I'll just get straight to the point. This was a touching, moving, and entertaining film. One of... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byshanno15 November 20, 2011

Great drama from the mind of Clint Eastwood (based on true story)

This movie really pulls on your heart strings from beginning to end. Based on a true, tragic story this movie is a great drama but very graphic so best seen age... Continue reading

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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