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Changeling – excellent film, stupid title

18 November 2009 by superlative

I watched a film called Changeling last night, on rental from LoveFilm, and I have to say that it was GREAT. It was so much better than I was expecting, and in actual fact it was nothing like the film that I thought it was.

The one-line description on LoveFilm read: “A mother’s prayer for her kidnapped son to return home is answered, though it doesn’t take long for her to suspect the boy who comes back is not hers.” Based on that, and on the fact that it is called Changeling, I got it into my head that the boy who returns to her is not only not her son, but is actually not a boy at all, and is probably an alien or a demon or something like that. So I was expecting a thriller or a horror.
I could not have been more wrong, and I’m blaming it largely on the title which is thoroughly inappropriate for the film. Yes the boy is not hers, but the film isn’t about that specifically, it’s about the mother’s struggle to convince a powerful and belligerent police force that he’s not her son, and to find out what has really happened to him.
I’m not going to say much more because I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s a great story, even if that short description of it makes it sound like it’ll be boring. Angelina Jolie is excellent in it, and I actually didn’t realise it was her until about halfway through. I always quite like that from an actor – where the first thing you think isn’t “Oh that’s Angelina Jolie”, because you’re solely concerned with the character they’re playing and not the fact that they’re famous. Reese Witherspoon and Hilary Swank both wanted the role apparently, but didn’t get it.
It’s even more gripping to watch when you know that it’s based on a true story, with very few of the details changed. The plot doesn’t actually need much spicing up for the big screen, it’s all there already, and knowing that it’s true is fairly horrifying. It was nominated for three Oscars, and even though it failed to win any I’m surprised I didn’t know more about it.
I thoroughly recommend it if you haven’t seen it. Yes it’s written by the man who wrote Babylon 5, and yes it’s called Changeling, but ignore those two things – they’re a distraction and they don’t tell you anything about what this film is going to be like. It’s very rare that I finish a film and think “Wow, that was really good”, but I found Changeling really exceptional.

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