- Released Internationally on 31/10/08
- Released in Malta by KRS on 03/12/08
In a nutshell
Based on a true case that occurred in the US in the 1928, this emotional drama is about a mother’s struggle to find justice when she realises that the son who is returned to her after a kidnapping isn’t in fact her own.
Who’s in it?
Angelina Jolie dominates the poster, promotional material and screen-time as Christine Collins, the mother on a mission, and her performance has received heaps of praise since the film screened at the Cannes film festival. The ever-entertaining John Malkovich portrays a local minister who embraces Collins’ cause and helps her fight her way to the truth. Amy Ryans, who was very impressive as another distraught mother in Gone Baby Gone plays a convicted prostitute who befriends Collins and helps her through the darkest part of her ordeal.
Why we’re hyped
Ron Howard was originally approached to direct, but he eventually declined, and Clint Eastwood took over. The man-with-no-name himself has peaked in his old age, and has directed some of the best films of the past decade, including the wonderful Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and Letters from Iwo Jima. These character dramas seem to be his forte, and they suit his subtle and unhurried style. He also wrote the soft but effective musical score, as he has done on many of his recent films. With him behind the camera, and Angelina Jolie in front, this Oscar-bait of a movie has class written all over it.
Mum on a mission
The film opens with a few scenes showing the relationship between Collins and her only son, before quickly arriving at the day in question when he disappeared. A brief mention of the father establishes that she is an only mum, and as the drama unfolds it becomes more and more evident how this son was her reason for living. Like every mum should, she tries everything to get him back as soon as possible, but unfortunately for her she is living in Los Angeles in the 20s, when apparently the police force was as clean as a Zimbabwe election.
The city’s finest
Eastwood’s film is as much about the distraught mum as it is about the corrupt LAPD. The focus on the laughable police department is essential as it proves to be the reason for most of Collins’ trouble, and the delay and eventual error in returning her son. Determined to improve their tarnished public image, the boys in blue will stop at nothing to get some good press, even if it means shushing up a single woman with a serious complaint, and forcing her to smile for the cameras as if the police have reunited her with her son. The embodiment of the conscienceless police force is wonderfully done by Jeffrey Donovan as the police captain, and it’s him and his army of goons that the audience should find it easy to hate.
Tales of mystery and terror
The hatred soon shifts target though, as Collins is placed in a rather unorthodox psychiatric hospital, where the staff leave much to be desired. Although psychiatric hospitals are easy targets for filmmakers who want to stage a few terrifying scenes, the archaic practices displayed here are possibly excused by the period setting, and in fact the film clearly explains that the procedure of mental health referral was changed by cases such as these. Later, the truth starts emerging about the boy’s whereabouts, and we suddenly realise that there are much worse things than being a corrupt cop or a psycho psychiatrist.
The plot takes a number of turns, and keeps us interested by providing a mini-climax every half-hour or so, rather than slowly building to one huge one. And tying everything together is the magnificent performance by Angelina Jolie, who holds steadfast throughout and never looks like giving up. She looks great in this period setting, and it’s gripping to watch her battle on and finally earn a few moments of joy in her life. It seems her real-life experience raising around 76 children with Brad Pitt has paid off, because she clearly shows us how Collins was a mum we would all be proud of.