(2007)3.5Perry SeibertThere is an old adage that defines the difference between "plot" and "story." The plot is that the queen dies and then the king dies, but the story is that the queen dies and then the king dies of a broken heart. Ben Affleck's directorial debut, an adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel Gone Baby Gone gets the plot right, but neglects the story. The movie has a deliberate, occasionally ponderous, pace, but the plot -- involving the attempts by private detectives to assist the police in finding a kidnapped little girl -- involves so many twists and turns that the film never becomes boring. Casey Affleck is rock solid as detective Patrick Kenzie, who, with his professional and personal partner Angie Genero (Michelle Monaghan), uses his working-class Boston contacts to uncover information the police might have overlooked. Ben Affleck approaches directing much like the award-winning screenwriter that he is. Within each scene there is an important piece of information that must be communicated, and he makes sure that the necessary information gets to the audience. He painstakingly keeps the audience right with the often complicated motivations of the characters. In lesser hands that style might have come off as talking down to the audience, not trusting the viewer to be able to keep up with the intricacies, but instead the film plays as if Ben Affleck was afraid to veer away from the plot because he might mess up. As a director, he seems to believe that if he just gets the plot points down, he'll be fine, and while those are good instincts to have, he needed to trust himself and his actors a little more. The movie comes down to a hefty moral decision Patrick must make, one that will deeply affect the relationship he shares with Angie. This payoff never reaches the emotional crescendo it should, in part because by failing to take his eyes off the plot, the director never gives us the history between his two lead characters. The film is almost too faithful to the novel in that the rich history between these characters flourished over the course of the previous three books in the series, making it unnecessary for Lehane to linger extensively on their history in order to make his remarkable book achieve its devastating climax. The actors are game, but they haven't been given the chance to showcase the depth or intensity of their feelings for each other. Ben Affleck shows promise as a director with Gone Baby Gone -- now he just needs to gain a little more confidence.