This grim quasi-documentary recreation of one of the most infamous and unsettling cases in L.A. crime history--combining, as it did in life, the horrendous mistreatment by the corrupt L.A.P.D. of Christine Collins, the mother of a kidnapped child who refused to accept the "changeling" that the L.A.P.D foisted on her as her lost son, and the truly ghastly "Chicken Coop" murders, one of the most awful serial killings of the early twentieth century (1928-30)--was well received at its premiere in Cannes, not as well here in the States. Why? I think because it is so bleak. Eastwood wasn't supposed to direct this movie. It was supposed to go to Ron Howard (of all people!), but luckily Howard found himself caught up in other projects and passed the script (first) to Eastwood, who immediately agreed to do the film. One can see why, as it revisits a theme--child abuse--that Eastwood has explored at least twice before on film, in the underrated albeit over-long A Perfect World and the overrated and over-long Mystic River. Unlike the two earlier, more sentimental and cliche films, Changeling is almost unremittingly dark and tough-minded and, in several sequences, painfully hard to watch. (It too is a bit overlong.) Collins' unshakable love and courage and hope (and the decency they inspire in others) are the only glimmers of light in a storyline that is otherwise so deeply black and unsettling that it is rather like a recasting of the Book of Job (and here, alas, everything is more or less factual). There was a time, not too long ago, when I thought Eastwood's direction was grossly overrated. But with this film and the two astonishing films that preceded it (Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima), I confess that I was wrong. At the end of a long, uneven career, Eastwood has acquired the touch of a master, and perhaps even more impressively, the wisdom and modesty to use that touch in ways that stick in the mind and heart. With an astonishing performance by Jason Butler Harner as the serial killer Gordon Northcott.