Gone Girl ★★★★

Gone Girl opens with the cool, chill tones of dawn gliding over an ordinary midwestern town. Pale morning turns golden, chasing the dark blue dusk back into the corners of alleys, the foundations of basements, and the doorways of businesses. But if you think the sunlight will stay for the day, don’t got your hopes up. A chilliness permeates David Fincher’s film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel. Lest we believe the dawn light is here to stay, Gone Girl does everything it can to convince us that the darkness has not been banished. It is instead hiding in these whom we know best, waiting to pounce to the surface and devour.

Describing the plot is denying the pleasure of suspense from anyone who reads and has not yet seen the film. Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a handsome bloke in New York City who meets and marries a dream: Amy (effortlessly played by stunning Rosamund Pike). She is fascinating in face and figure and the perfect New York lady: well bred, well read, and captivating to converse with (and to take to bed). From all exterior angles theirs is the perfect modern existence; a large house, a handsome couple, and the best education. Yet during their first meeting we see them enter an industrial elevator and descend with it into shadow, picturing where their relationship is headed.

For marriage shines a strong and steady light on a person’s heart and the threads of this hearts’s duplicity is being tugged at one by one over the years. Here on their fifth anniversary the boat tips and the wretchedness of its cargo is revealed, floundering amongst the flotsam. Amy goes missing and Nick is soon cast into the media firestorm that slowly turns what is private public.

Joshua Rothman in The New Yorker says “Gone Girl is what the critic Ted Gioia calls a “postmodern mystery”: it lets us luxuriate in the “reassuring heritage” of the traditional mystery, which feels like it’s building toward a tidy solution, even while we enjoy “the fun of toppling it over and watching the pieces fall where they may.”” This sentence captures both the appeal and confusion the film has over its audiences. There is thrill in following our girl who is gone and tracking the twists and turns of Nick’s investigation. There is a horror when we arrive at the film’s conclusion and realizing how its refuses to tidily wrap up the implications of what we’ve witnessed.

But there is a third element to this film that creeps under our skin as we watch it and the thrill of the chase when it arrives is welcomed because it distraction, for this third elements hits a little too close to home. Portrayed here is a human darkness that lurks just under the public surface of our lives. The illusion of perfection that this couple tries to maintain slowly cracks and as these cracks widen, Nick and Amy are left on separate islands, circled by sharks hungry for the blood of their iniquities. In Nick especially we see his guilt of chilliness towards his wife turn into the sin of adultery.

According to the film, our efforts to hide the imperfections that reveal our darkness are two fold. We can bury such behaviours from the eyes of media, be that our self imposed online networks, or the public media that Nick faced. Or we can deal with our depravity in a more extreme manner, letting it and its brutal consequences loose. Whatever the case, the consequences will come knocking (as Jian Gomeshi is realizing right now), for none of our lives are innocent.

To watch a film like this and not process what it says and what we can learn from it is a great shame. It is expertly wrought and its implications are far fetching; we could discuss what it says about marriage, guilt, husband and wife relationships, its perspective on feminism, the postmodern way it tells its story and where it chooses to end that telling, its lack of hope, and the relation its characters have to the media.

But I was left with two reflections. First, being haunted by such an honest portrayal of inward darkness amongst ordinary domesticity and to not reaching personal repentance for my own wrongs is like seeing the damaging effects of a behaviour and continuing to practice it everyday. But to see this terror of self and look for acquittal from anything other than the gospel is just as bad. Which brings me to my second reflection; how glad I am to be part of a community where I see the gospel applied to this most dangerous relationship of marriage. Gone Girl depicts a marriage where such grace, special or ordinary, is uprooted and tossed aside. The roof is removed and we are all peering inside.

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