Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Question of Gone Baby Gone

A couple of weeks ago I watched the movie Gone Baby Gone. If you can get past the f-bomb every other word, it's a pretty interesting film.

I have yet to read a Dennis Lehane novel (the source material for this movie), but I thought he was interesting when I heard him speak at BEA and I have an ARC of The Given Day that I really need to read.

Have you seen Gone Baby Gone? If you have any plans to watch it and don't want to be spoiled than you might want to skip this post. This is your warning.

In the movie Gone Baby Gone, a little girl goes missing. We quickly discover that her mother is not going to win mom-of-the-year anytime soon, as she's a junkie who frequently mistreats her little girl. Yet our private investigating heroes look relentlessly for her anyway until it all ends badly one night. They believe the girl to be dead despite not finding her body. Some times passes, some conversations take place, and eventually our main character discovers that the girl is in fact not dead, but has been kidnapped in an elaborate scheme by the (now retired) chief of police for her protection. Upon making this discovery he immediately wants to call the police. The girl looks happy and she is in a safe happy place far from the hellish place she was before. Yet, she is not with her mother. And there is no way Patrick can allow her to stay. His girlfriend begs not turn the chief of police in and let the girl stay safe, but he does anyway.

Whew, long explanation. But I wonder...what would you do? If faced with a child who had been living in near intolerable conditions who has suddenly found a new family who loves her, where she can run about in the country and where she is cherished...would you hesitate to call her back to a mother who can't be bothered and a life where she is little more than a nuisance? Patrick was unwavering and determined, but I think I would be torn and strongly conflicted.

I suppose this post will make more sense for those who have seen the film...but I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Ultimately, it's a question about the authority of law and is it okay at times to make your own decisions based on your moral convictions? Reach deep inside...what would you do?

I am submitting this post to Watercooler Wednesday. Check it out for more posts on art and culture.


Misty said...

well, this was a really personal film for us. Though we obtained her legally, our daughter could have been that little girl... And the horrors her life saw, because of her birth mother's ridiculous choices- really led us to side with the Morgan Freeman character. They moved heaven and earth to make it safe for the child (though there was also slightly selfish gain for them, as well) and that is something I support. The argument is that it's wrong to play God, to do so... Well, I am a Christian and have COMPLETE faith in God, but a lot of times these children go through hell and it's up to us (people/family/society/community) to intervene.
Legally, of course, but even so...

danp said...

This movie has generated a lot of heated debate with some of my friends and tells me they this movie is so important on the topic of situational ethics. Personally, he did the right thing and I hate that it was. When do we draw the line?

What we don't have is the remainder of the story which could be written several ways. Perhaps, she (the mom)like some, comes to her senses. We don't know. But taking the law into our own hands and becoming "judge and jury" is a recipe for anarchy which leads to destruction of society... let the debate continue!

Amy said...

Two responses on opposite sides of the coin! Thanks for taking the time to respond. I see where both of you are coming from.

Krista said...

I don't agree that taking the law into your own hands results in anarchy and the end of our society. True anarchy is when everyone is responsible for themself (not irresponsible) and it would be a wonderful thing. Not that it would ever happen in our world. I just think anarchy has gotten hijacked by people who don't want to be responsible.
Anyways, I haven't seen this movie, but from what little I read here I would have to say: Unless the mom truly wanted her little girl back I would not have turned in the police chief. I would have to have seen throughout the search time that she was realizing that some of her actions may have caused this and be working to change her life. If not? Then I think morality and God trump our legal system. Just think of people who live in countries who don't believe in God. They live according to their morals all the time. They may pay the consequences, but in then end they still have to live with themselves. I don't think I would be able to live with myself if the police chief went to jail for rescuing a little girl.
Of course you'd have to know the entire story as well... which we may never be able to know in situations like this.
And I have very little faith in our courts protecting innocent young children anyway - especially with all the ridiculous social workers out there (yes, I know there are some good ones, they are just few and far between).

How's that for a ramble on a movie I haven't even seen?

Anonymous said...

Gone Baby Gone was on my top 10 list last year. And the main reason it was there was because it showed there are no easy answers. Issues are almost always more complicated than they seem. And when a group, political or religious or whatever, wants to raise money, the way to do so is to pretend there is one absolutely correct position on whatever issue. And unfortunately, most of the time their followers swallow it.

I don't know what I would have done in the situation presented in this movie, but my favorite part was the very last scene. It showed him taking personal responsibility for the decision he had made, even if it didn't turn out like he had hoped.

Amy said...

Krista thanks for chiming in! I really don't know what I would have done...I honestly don't. But what amazed me was how unwavering Patrick was about what to do. He absolutely believed he was doing the right thing. He was willing to sacrifice his relationship with his girlfriend (though it was bit manipulative of her to throw down such an ultimatum).

Good point about the end Stephen. I have no problem seeing the moral "grey" areas in situations. I'm sure I give my more modernist relatives sleepless nights as they ponder my eternal fate. But the ending, while a bit heartbreaking for me, does illustrate a commitment I suppose ultimately the little girl. (can't remember her name!)

Lenore Appelhans said...

I didn't get the feeling that the mother REALLY wanted the little girl back, and it was obvious that the little girl was happier and in a better situation with the police chief. However, the way everyone approached this was clearly wrong. They should have gone through official channels. What court would leave custody with such an unfit mother?

Anonymous said...

My husband and I watched this movie together, and my husband was like, The kid should definitely go back to her family. But I was more conflicted, like you were. The situation makes it hard to stick to a hard and fast morality.

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