Clint Eastwood has an extraordinary true story to work with in Changeling, and he tells it well with his trademark slow pace and gorgeously spare cinematography. But like most true stories, this one could've benefited from some Hollywood trims and embellishments.

Clint Eastwood has an extraordinary true story to work with in Changeling, and he tells it well with his trademark slow pace and gorgeously spare cinematography. But like most true stories, this one could've benefited from some Hollywood trims and embellishments.

There are two distinct stories in Changeling, and both are equally horrifying. The first follows '20s-era single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), who returns home from work one day to find her nine-year-old son missing. When police say they've found the boy several months later, they trumpet their happy-ending story to the papers -- only it's not actually her son.

Collins pushes to keep the search going, but the police captain not only refuses, he throws her in an insane asylum to keep her from taking her story to the media. Jolie turns in a fearless performance as a very fearful mother who, despite being resolute in continuing her battle, is terrified of doing anything that might hinder the hunt for her son.

"Changeling"

Opens Friday

Grade: B+

A second storyline involves what actually happened to the young boy. Each one could've made a compelling movie on its own, but instead they're woven together in a hefty two-and-a-half-hour film that still gives short shrift to the boy's side.

In sticking with the known facts of the case, screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski leaves a lot of questions unanswered. By the end, you can't help wondering if a fictional take on this mother-son tale would've been a bit more satisfying.