Gone, Baby, Gone

Gone, Baby, Gone

Film review by: Witney Seibold

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            Ben Affleck returns to his native Boston to direct his new feature “Gone Baby Gone.” Only it’s not the romantic, snow-blanketed, or sunsoaked halcyon Boston of childhood daydreams. This is a Boston of filthy stucco-encrusted slums, hopeless alcoholic squalor, and blemished, fat, exceedingly unattractive people. Affleck seems to have gone out of his way to include the most unpleasant locales and least appealing background characters seen outside of heroin-addicted carny’s trailer.

 

            It’s in this world we meet Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck), a put-upon PI who works with his girlfriend Angie (Michelle Monaghan), and barely squeaks by, living almost solely on his street smarts. Patrick is approached by Bea and Lionel (Amy Madigan and Titus Welliver), the concerned aunt and uncle of a missing local 5-year-old girl Amanda. The police (represented by a little-seen Morgan Freeman, and a possible monster Ed Harris) are already all over the case, but Bea and Lionel feel that a local PI kid from the streets would have better luck connecting with any potential kidnappers (they’re sure, sure, that it’s a kidnapping). The girl’s mom Helene (Amy Ryan) is a pissy drug addict who, strangely, doesn’t seem to much care that her little girl has vanished. As Patrick and Angie begin to scour through the barrel of local criminal, they do indeed uncover some details the cops don’t know about, and learn things from Helene that send them on a complicated path. The entire plot leads to a shocking act of moral ambiguity, which, in turn, leads to a horrible decision of choosing what is right and very difficult over what is easy and likely beneficial.

 

            Sorry to be so vague, but I wouldn’t dream of giving away crucial plot details of this one.

 

            Ben Affleck has done a surprisingly good job of not only directing his actors (which should be easy, given that the leading man is his brother), but of creating an entire believable world of crime and filth and desperation where morals have to be reshuffled a little bit. He is able to pull off a complicated crime story, while keeping it clear and interesting, all the while never losing sight of the ethical and emotional dilemmas each of the characters are going through.

 

            In short, he has made a very good film.

 

            Particularly good are Casey Affleck in the lead, Amy Ryan as the uncaring and irresponsible mother (she was just this morning nominated for an Academy Award for her performance), Harris as the hissing jaded cop, and I was moved by Welliver’s scene in which he gracefully and gloriously falls right off the wagon. Monaghan does what she can with an underwritten role, but ultimately doesn’t have much to do other than look concerned, and deliver a few pat lines of interrogation.

             The final shot of the film is, like this year’s “There Will Be Blood,” damning and painful and revelatory. We see a man alone with the decisions he’s made, and directly looking at the consequences. It is a beautiful moment, and the film has gone to great pains to earn it.

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Published in: on January 22, 2008 at 7:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

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