The Changeling
Directed by Clint Eastwood


A mother confronts the Los Angeles police after her child disappears.

The chances that you’ll enjoy a Clint Eastwood film are usually good, said Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. You can rely on the “pleasure of his calm classicism: the deftly angled shots, the story that unfolds with well-carpentered precision.” This directorial style is “even more pronounced” in The Changeling—but this time it works against him. Based on a true story, the film stars Angelina Jolie as a single mother who, in 1928, sees her son kidnapped. When the L.A. police accidentally reunite her with a boy who isn’t hers, they put her in an asylum to keep her from exposing their incompetence. It’s a harrowing turn of events, which Eastwood opts to methodically recount, said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. He sticks so closely to the facts, however, that he winds up creating a “distended, awkward narrative whose strongest themes are lost in the murky pomp of period detail.” Instead of exploring the story’s strangeness, The Changeling “lurches from one staid set piece” to the next. Through the entire film, we’re kept at a “stately remove” from the characters, said Dana Stevens in Jolie gives a rich, selfless performance, but the film’s flat delivery doesn’t invite us to share in her “disorientation, rage, and grief.”