The capable and effective actress Amy Ryan proved herself adept at a myriad of portrayals in many genres. Ryan was often, though not always, cast as a solid and dependable housewife, mother, or girlfriend, per her contributions to the 2004 Keane (as the impoverished single mother of a young girl, who unwittingly entrusts her daughter to a schizophrenic), the 2006 Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (as Albert Brooks' wife and straight man), and the 2005 Capote (as the wife of Chris Cooper's no-nonsense sheriff). On television, Ryan gained notice as Officer Beatrice "Beadie" Russell on the critically acclaimed HBO drama series The Wire.
In 2007, Ryan ascended several notches in terms of feature billing with her portrayal of Carolyn Cassady, the wife of 1950s icon Neal Cassady, in director Noah Buschel's eponymous biopic of the legendary beatnik. Ryan also tackled a small supporting role in the Steve Carell comedy Dan in Real Life. That same year, her work in two crime films catapulted her even further into the limelight. As the mother of the missing girl in Gone Baby Gone, Ryan earned rave reviews and dominated the year-end critics awards for Best Supporting Actress, garnering Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globe, and Oscar nominations in the process. Her work as Ethan Hawke's dissatisfied ex-wife in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead helped cement her new status as a rising star.