Clint Eastwood’s feel for actors doesn’t desert him in this true story of 1920’s Los Angeles featuring Angelina Jolie in a similar Oscar-baiting vein to her role as Mariane Pearl in Michael Winterbottom’s A Mighty Heart. Jolie drabs-down effectively to play Christine Collins, a single-mother who ekes out a living as a roller-skating telephone exchange manager. When her son Walter (Gatlin Griffith) goes missing, Collins is relieved when the LAPD return the boy to her, but she does not recognise the child. The LAPD put her maternal rejection down to shock and disorientation. Her subsequent accusations of conspiracy prompt the authorities to take shocking and radical action.
J Michael Straczynski’s screenplay is a leisurely exploration of the well-worn theme of ‘gutsy individual battling against police corruption’, balanced by an equally emotive sub-plot dealing with sexual prejudice. Eastwood coaxes an understated, dignified and empathetic performance from Jolie, but also conjures up a string of authoritative supporting performances including Michael Kelly as a tireless detective, and Amy Ryan from Ben Affleck’s similarly themed Gone Baby Gone. There’s no happy ending here, but there’s satisfying resolution of the serious issues involved; the stolen child theme is may be a melodramatic staple, but Eastwood’s old-fashioned but deeply classy woman’s picture is a timeless affair.
General release from Fri 5 Dec.