It's often the first few sentences of a novel that define the rest of the story, and in the case of Gone Baby Gone, it's Patrick Kenzie's (Casey Affleck) opening lines that tell you everything you need to know about his character, his mindset and the choices he'll make throughout the film: "It's what you don't choose in life that make you who you are." He goes on to give examples like family, or where you were born, while the camera sweeps across the hardened blue-collar streets of Dorchester, Mass., eventually landing smack in the middle of a community grieving the disappearance of a little girl who was kidnapped from her bed. Those of us on the outside looking in would describe these people as "white trash" -- the kind of folks that made Jerry Springer a household name -- but to Patrick, this is home. These are the people he grew up with, these are the people he'll grow old with, and these are the people he'll go out of his way to protect.
Patrick knows Helene McCready (Amy Ryan) from high school (he was a freshman when she was a slutty senior), and when her daughter Amanda is kidnapped in the middle of the night, Dorchester is thrown into a frenzy: Cops, news reporters, cameras and crowds of people camp outside Helene's small, unkempt apartment complex. Helene isn't some white, middle-class stay-at-home mom, she's a single woman with an abusive boyfriend and a coke habit. The cops, led by police captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman), begin to do what they do best -- but for Helene's sister-in-law (Amy Madigan), that's not enough. And so she, along with her reluctant husband Lionel (Titus Welliver) seek out the services of Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro (Michele Monaghan); two fairly young private investigators who know the neighborhood, know its people and know how to find someone. And while Kenzie and Gennaro are extremely hesitant at first (after all, every cop in the city is looking for that little girl), they eventually decide to take the case. It would wind up being the single best -- and worst -- decision they would ever make.