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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Sham Son

Changeling (2008) on IMDb

Plot Overview

middle schoolLos Angeles, 1928. The film opens in B&W and soon transitions into color, intimating, we suppose, a society going through changes. After dropping off her nine-year-old son Walter (Gattlin Griffith) at school on a Friday morning, single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) goes to her day job as a roving supervisor—she patrols a switch­board on roller skates—at Pacific Tele­phone and Tele­graph. Having to work the following Saturday she leaves Walter at home in their safe Lincoln Heights neighbor­hood where people don't even bother to lock their doors. Alas for the infernal auto­mobile; now predators can expand their territory. When upon returning home her son is missing, Christine then has the tele­phone to call surrounding police stations for news. The LAPD made matters worse by returning the wrong boy and then they stopped looking.


In a society where a two-parent family is the norm, Christine was placed in a vulnerable position when her husband fled his responsibility, leaving at the birth of their child. That was “dumb.” In this slow moving drama, we are given ample PG talking points with which to enlighten the youthful viewer. There is such a thing as sex, we discover, by the embarrassment of one of the switch­board's callers upon over­hearing it on her party line. It's some­thing men and women do, and the result is (sometimes) a baby. The mother develops an intense bond with her child from carrying it nine months in her womb. As misguided police Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) points out to Christine who rejects the kid that ain't hers, the LAPD holds no truck with derelict mothers. A most shining example of mother­hood is given when the hymn is sung, “Silent Night:” “Round yon virgin Mother and child.” The virgin Mary didn't even have the thirty seconds of bliss before conceiving baby Jesus. For the male sex, how­ever, that's all the physicality he has in the process—no menstral cycle, no pregnancy, no birthing, no nursing. It's not enough to cement the strong bond to child the mother enjoys. He needs to build it through his external socialization with mother and child, and it's in society's best interest to aid him.

Walter was evidently bored that Saturday and wandered off. But we see two little girls on their bikes who are more content on their home base and socializing with each other. Boys and girls are different that way. In fact the substitute boy Arthur Hutchins (Devon Conti) went along with the scheme in hopes of meeting cowboy movie stars—and their horse—in L.A. When a frantic Christine finds two boys in her neighbor­hood, they are fighting each other with wooden swords. Boys are naturally aggressive.

The “drifter” (Ric Sarabia) who'd latched onto the boy Arthur is an example of a guy following his wander­lust, not being domesti­cated through the agency of maintaining a family.

In the psychopathic ward of Los Angeles County General Hospital we meet one Carol Dexter (Amy Ryan) who'd been a “working” girl who got on the wrong side of the cops. So we see there is an option out­side of marriage for men to fulfill their sex lust, but it's not proper socialization. Carol (and other women) ended up being beaten by their respective men, and then Carol was committed by her police­man john to get her out of the way. Unsocialized men take out their aggressions in unacceptable ways.

The corrupt LAPD sunk down to gang violence with their “gun squad” to neutralize the competition for vice. Men gone amok.

The epitome of the unsocialized male was Canadian Gordon Stewart Northcott (Jason Butler Harner) who settled by him­self on a country spread in America, coopted his young cousin Sanford Clark (Eddie Alderson) to help him, and perversely dealt with captured kids. It took him to the gallows.

Proper socialization as a family man redirects male impulses to bolster his masculine image through being a faithful provider for a family he's committed to. We see examples here of working fellows in jobs they can be proud of: the milk­man, the street­car conductor, the cook, and the dentist, all in their spiffy uniforms, not to mention the men in suits at the phone company, L.A.'s finest, and the judges. The women had their lesser status jobs as switchboard operators, school teacher, and elevator operator. The menfolk had jobs that “pay you enough to take care of your responsibilities,” so they are less tempted to split at a new birth.

the word and prayerThe one person who shows explicit Christian piety in this other­wise worldly movie is the guy on death row. There's an open Bible back at his house, obviously being read through, and as his fate approaches he becomes more earnest in his prayers—who can blame him. The prison chaplain is smiling and satisfied that this guy after being remorseful and doing penance is prepared to meet his Maker, though in my opinion there's still a screw loose some­where. Would that every­one were as prepared for his death as this man was, but this 2 hour, 21 minutes viewing experience will impress upon our minds. that there is more to Christian duty than preparing ourselves and others for the after­life, to wit, learning how to live in these male or female bodies that God has given us. It's some­what along the lines of what George F. Gilder has written:

Without a durable relationship with a woman, a man's sexual life is a series of brief and temporary exchanges, impelled by a desire to affirm his most rudimentary masculinity. But with love, sex becomes refined by selectivity, and other dimensions of personality are engaged and developed. The man him­self is refined, and his sexuality becomes not a mere impulse but a meaningful commitment in society, possibly to be ful­filled in the birth of specific children legally and recognizably his. (35)

Gilder challenged the claims of feminists, because they ignore the woman's more powerful sexuality. Women already have a matronly feeling of external superiority. The man often needs to balance his innate sexual inferiority through a marginally higher wage or better position.

Church serviceThat said, the movie chronicles the true story of police corruption and the living hell they put this woman (and others) through. One gasps in shock, especially that they seem to be getting away with it. (Eccl. 5:8) “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.” Fortunately, above corrupt Capt. Jones sits the Chief of Police James E. Davis (Colm Feore), and above him is the City Council. There's even mention in the movie of President Coolidge. If not one of them sees the light, well, there's the fourth estate, the news­papers. And there's the people to protest. The movie takes particular pains to high­light Presby­terian Pastor Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) who has an attentive congregation and a radio ministry. God has sent him on a mission: “Mrs. Collins, I have made it my mission in life to bring to light all the things the LAPD wish none of us ever knew about. A depart­ment ruled by violence, abuse, murder, corruption and intimidation.” Kudos also goes to pro bono lawyer S.S. Hahn (Geoffrey Pierson.)

As bad as the city police are, more shocking events take place in the remote country­side far removed from prying eyes. (Eccl. 5:9) “More­over the profit of the earth is for all: the king him­self is served by the field.” Even America the land of opportunity with its engine of industry necessarily relies on the fields to supply its produce—and in this case its poultry. Rural isolation may give rise to unimaginable horrors. Think “Deliverance.”

Production Values

” (2008) was directed by Clint Eastwood and written by J. Michael Straczynski. It stars Angelina Jolie, Colm Feore, and Amy Ryan. Jolie did a superb job in a role requiring real acting. Stand­out performances were also given by Eddie Alderson, Amy Ryan and Jeffrey Donovan.

MPAA rated it R for some violent and disturbing content, and language. Church scenes were filmed at All Saint's Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, USA. The production struck me as historically faithful except women's skirts seemed too long for the roaring twenties—but what do I know? Their chests were suitably flat.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This was another mature and thought-provoking film from director Eastwood in his latter years. It's too long for audience preference, but the story does not lend itself to a quick telling. Watch it when it suits your mood.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture was cited from the King James Version, Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Print.

Gilder, George F. Sexual Suicide. New York: Quadrangle, 1973. Print.