Gone Baby Gone (USA 2007, Crime/Drama/Mystery), Writers: Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard; Director: Ben Affleck
Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, Gone Baby Gone begins with the disappearance of four-year-old Amanda McCready (Madeline O’Brien). Unsatisfied with the police’s efforts to find Amanda, her aunt Bea (Amy Madigan) hires rookie private detectives Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) to help track her down.
Knowing the film was helmed by Ben Affleck, I went in with a pretty critical eye on the direction (thinking of him as an actor rather than a director). But it didn’t take long for me to be pulled out of my over-analytical mind and start getting caught up in the film.
Although the storyline is a bit convoluted, Affleck clearly has a talent for writing. And as his directorial debut, the film definitely shows the promise of great things to come. In fact, Affleck seems better suited behind the camera than in front of it. That said, his acting experience clearly informs and benefits him as a director. It’s obvious he knows how to work with actors. Watching the film, you get a sense of how collaborative this project was and what a close set it must have been.
Gone Baby Gone has a slightly homemade flavour, probably due to the fact that Affleck is so familiar with the neighbourhood (the film is set in his native Boston) and because he cast locals in many of the smaller roles. The approach works well, making the characters and setting all the more believable. There are also several outstanding performances from the lead actors. In particular, Amy Ryan as Amanda’s mother Helene, Edi Gathegi as Cheese, and the always wonderful Ed Harris as Detective Remy Bressant. (I’ve got to see Pollock one of these days.)
Getting back to the storyline… Gone Baby Gone takes a bit of a twist about half-way through, which leads to a somewhat anti-climatic resolution. But I loved the closing scene. Unlike too many films, this one doesn’t fall back on trying to tie things up neatly with a clear-cut answer about right and wrong. And the final line says it all about what the people around Amanda really cared about—in spite of what they may have been saying all along.