The Movie Gone Baby Gone is a distinctly Christian movie, or to put it another way, distinctly Catholic. Though the Catholicism of the movie comes in the form of Roman Catholicism, it is not the distinctly Roman dogmas such as papal infallibility and the Marian dogmas that drive the religious and moral perspective of the main character. Instead it is the wisdom of Catholicism as it applies itself so readily to every day life and to situations that humans go through, that ancient wisdom of thousands of years of conversation, thought, action, doctrine, and life.
In a very real sense, the film can be characterized as ultimately displaying two competing moralities: a post-modern humanist perspective vs. a Catholic perspective. That is what makes the movie so intriguing. It is not blank evil against good, but instead it is one way of righteousness pitted against another way of righteousness. The two different kinds of righteousness that are placed in opposition to each other are a human-centered vs. a divine centered morality. In some ways, the moral systems of the film could be seen as a degraded Protestantism which has now boiled into a humanist secularism vs. a folk Catholicism that is seen in the young detective who may not be the most devout Catholic but who is obviously Catholic in his upbringing, beliefs, perspective, and actions.
Now this is not to say that Protestantism concludes in secularism and that Catholicism does not degrade. Another movie could be made that could pit a superstitious syncretistic Catholicism (like some of what is seen in Mexico) vs a pious devout Protestantism. But in our America culture, the dichotomy of this movie is much closer to our experience. Much Protestantism has degraded into a moral system that is wedded to the politics, ethics, and philosophy of the culture, whereas many Catholics still retain a Christian perspective instinctively because of their generations long connection to Catholicism and their catechism in the Catholic church.
The dilemma comes out most strongly at the climax of the movie. Detective Kenzie realizes that the police captain had taken the girl and was caring for her. Everyone involved believed that the girl was better off with the police captain then with her own mother, because her mother was neglectful and depraved. Remy, Lionel, the police chief, and finally the detective’s girlfriend all believe that the little girl should stay with the police chief.
Their belief is simple and likely rings with the audience for the very reason that it is closer to the assumptions of our time. It is an individualistic belief centered on the hedonism of the one person: the little girl. Believing that the ultimate purpose for the little girl is the little girl having a stable environment where she is nurtured and feels secure, they all become pragmatists who believe that the end justifies the means. And even if they have to kill (which the two officers killed two men to cover up the lie), lie, kidnap, and steal, at least the little girl will be happier and more well-adjusted in life. This reveals the heart of the modern secularist. Ultimately their morality is one of individualism (what is best in this situation for this particular individual) hedonism (the answer to what is best is: this individuals comfort, pleasure, and happiness) and pragmatism (any means must be taken to secure the individual’s happiness).
But the main character, who obviously throughout the film represents the Catholic perspective, simply cannot think or act this way. He realizes something the other characters do not even seem to take into consideration: there is actually more than the mere individual’s happiness: there is Divine Law. The main character does not see things on such a peripheral level, but he thinks in larger terms and views the entire human narrative. He thinks in terms of those grand things in life that are more important than any one person: motherhood, sin, honesty, forgiveness.
Detective Kenzie believes the same way that Job believed: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” God had given this child to her mother, it was His decision and doing, and it is no one’s perogative to take that child from her mother. While the pragmatists defend the one child, he defends motherhood and childhood. While they are willing to lie, kill, steal, and be unforgiving to the mother, he is willing to expose the lies, repent of his sins (such as the guilt he feels for killing the man he shot, while everyone else is so proud of him), take back what was stolen, and to believe that the mother should be given a chance for she might change still.
And if the child is to be taken from her mother, it must be done properly, by the authorities that God has put over us to make these kinds of decisions. This truly is the Catholic and Christian perspective. It is faith in God’s decisions even if they are not to our liking or even if they do not fit into our understanding. It is belief in God’s order, it is a hatred for sin, and willingness to forgive and believe that wretches can receive grace and can be changed. The mother and the family are important to the detective too, along with the little girl. He cares for the soul of the family, the mother, and the girl, while the others merely care about the little girl’s well-adjustment.
In the end, the detective’s decision may end up being a decision that makes the little girl live a much harder life than she would have lived. She may not have the white picket fence, and all her desires and pleasures met, she may not have stability or security, or even basic comforts. This is truly sad, but it isn’t the measure of all things, for though she does not have these things, she will be on God’s path. And we know all too well that this path consists of bearing a cross up the narrow road which not many trod. It is a road of suffering, pain, endurance, and trouble. But it is the road God has put us on that we might find not are hedonist pleasures met and the American dream fulfilled, but that we might find Him . And in finding him, we might find His life that he gives us as he raises us from death and gives us the true eternal Joy that will make any pleasures of this life seem like crumbs fallen from the master’s table.