I didn't know the story of Walter Collins or the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, carried out in the California town during the late 1920s, before seeing Changeling. I knew only two things about the film: it was directed by Clint Eastwood, which made me eager to see it, and starred Angelina Jolie, which didn't.
Curiosity, and a healthy appreciation for all-things-Clint, won out.
Changeling is a fascinating story. After her young son, Walter, goes missing, Christine Collins (Jolie) searches for months before being informed by the Los Angeles police he's been found in the Mid-West. Immediately upon their reunion, Ms. Collins announces the boy is not her son. Dental records and physical dissimilarities add credibility to her story with everyone except the police, who find Ms. Collins to be a nuisance, mucking up their best public relations case in years.
The treatment of Ms. Collins by the LA police--and the incompetent way they conducted the investigation of her missing son--ultimately established new protocols and procedures for how police investigate crimes involving youth, and their powers to hold people suspected of having mental illness.
The story told by Changeling unfolds so well over the two-plus hours that I enjoyed it despite the fact it starred Angelina Jolie, who I consider the most over-rated actor today. Jolie let the story tell itself, and didn't over-shadow it. Visually, the movie is remarkable. Shot in modern day LA, the film was digitized to look like 1920s Wineville. The effect really works to help the audience believe the story. The "Best Art Direction" nomination of James Murakami and Gary Fettis is well deserved.
The visual technician should win an award soley for his effort to effectively remove all of Jolie's tatts!