This assured directing debut from Ben Affleck (now there’s a sentence we never thought we’d write) was released in the US last October, and in many other international destinations in the months since. The film has garnered very positive reviews, multiple award nominations for Affleck and actress Amy Ryan, culminating with a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Ryan.
The film, however, has not yet been released in the UK, nor, as a result, in Ireland either. It is being distributed internationally by Buena Vista, who have only recently announced that its Ireland/UK release date is now set for 6th June 2008 (it was initially scheduled for December 2007). Correct Opinion was lucky enough to see this film a number of months ago and has to beg the question – why the long delay?
The reason is basically the close similarity between the film’s story line and the real-life disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal last May. In December, the distributors decided to postpone the film’s UK release indefinitely.
The film, based on a novel by Denis Lehane (Mystic River), is set in a tough part of Boston and concerns two private detectives, hired by the family of a missing 4 year-old girl to help find her, as local police have made little headway. The two detectives, played by Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan, are initially reluctant to take the case and as they become more and more involved, both their personal and professional lives are affected.
While most of the award nominations have been given to Ben Affleck and Amy Ryan, in her role as a drug-addicted, neglectful mother, credit must also be given to Casey Affleck, who turns in another strong performance. 2007 was a good year for him, along with his role in The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford (another film which suffered from a long delay between production and release). Solid support is also provided by Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris, even if the latter is a bit bombastic in his role.
It is a very good film. Well-acted, nicely written, with promising and solid, if not quite spectacular, direction. A film worthy of a full theatrical release, certainly, it is a showcase for both emerging and established talents.
So did Miramax/Buena Vista make the right decision in postponing its release? Aside from the premise of the disappearance of a young child, Gone Baby Gone has little to no other resemblance to the McCann case. Affleck, though, has said that he understands and supports the decision, given the strength of feeling surrounding the Madeleine McCann disappearance.
However, the film’s UK/Ireland release had originally been scheduled for 28th December 2007 – a full seven months after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. While it is still very much an open case and we are sensitive to the pain and suffering being experienced by those involved, to outright postpone the film’s release seems a tad over-reactionary.
We can only assume that it was fear of an orchestrated campaign by the infamously nasty British tabloids which also influenced the decision. The actress playing the kidnapped child in Gone Baby Gone does bear a striking resemblance to Madeleine McCann – and the fact that the actress’s name is Madeline (O’Brien) is also a coincidence likely to draw comment from the red tops.
By way of comparison, it was released in Portugal last month.
In any other circumstances, the film may not have even received that much notice. It is not your typical popcorn fare. It would have received some good attention for the acting performances and for being Ben Affleck’s first feature film to direct and be released. All parties involved would have received due credit and it would have made a worthy addition to any CV.
Now, at least for its UK release, it will no doubt be caught up with press releases and statements both distancing itself from the McCann case and also offering sympathy for those involved. It is a pity that a fine film like this could not get the regular release it deserved and receive attention for all the right reasons.