The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta

The Place Beyond the Pines is a film full of raw human emotion and the consequences that come with them. Cianfrance tells us a story of two men, a criminal and a rookie cop, through non-traditional ways which might scare some people in that it is different than what we are used to seeing in a movie, but for me, drew me in and kept me hooked from start to finish. It’s a very risky film in this way and I can see the lack of appeal for some people who don’t enjoy the more serious types of films, but it opened up to me many different emotions and questions that had my mind reeling after it ended.

It starts out by showing us Luke Glanton (Gosling), a stuntman for a traveling carnival, who makes a living off of doing nifty tricks on his motor bike. While he is in Schenectady, New York, he meets up with an old fling, Romina (Mendes), that he hooked up with last time he was in town. He then finds out that he is the father of her child. Not wanting his son to end up like him, fatherless, he quits his job at the carnival so that he can stay in Schenectady and help out with raising his kid.  Things are complicated when he finds out Romina is seeing someone else, Kofi, and that she doesn’t want him to be a part of his son’s life. Luke tries to show her that he can support her and their son but eventually resorts to robbing banks in order to provide money for them. Things get even more crazy when Luke gets addicted to the thrill of it which gets himself in dangerously close encounters with the police and one officer in general, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).

The unconventional way of telling this story that I mentioned earlier is that Cianfrance chooses to change narratives throughout the movie. First we are seeing the story through Luke’s narrative and get to see him as a character with real human emotions and motives behind his actions. Then the narrative changes to Bradley Cooper’s character, Avery Cross, and surprisingly this transition kept the rhythm of the film going and it did not feel out of place. Another narrative change takes place but I won’t spoil it and say to who. Again, this still kept the flow of the film steady although it could have been a very disorienting action. I believe these narrative changes aren’t just there to change things up, but are there to create more intimate relationships between the viewer and the character on-screen. This way we are able to truly see what they are feeling and that helps us understand the choices they make, that otherwise we might have trouble understanding.

All of the actors here are at their best. Gosling has been doing excellent work and this performance reminded me of Drive, in which he is also a kind of a soft spoken, misfit criminal. Bradley Cooper really impressed me in his last film Silver Linings Playbook, and in this film he did not disappoint. He has really grown into an actor that I respect and look forward to seeing more of. Those were the two that stuck out most to me along with Dane DeHaan, who was the best part of the last 45 minutes or so of the film. and who also bears a striking resemblance to a young Leonardo DiCaprio, but maybe that’s just me.

This film isn’t extremely fast-paced or full of tense action sequences, but it just feels so…human. It’s as if this film is just about the human experience in general and not just the few characters we witness on the screen. We understand the desperation of Gosling’s character to provide for his son.We understand the confusion of Cooper’s character as he learns that the institution he admires so much is actually corrupt. We are able to feel all these things without being told to.  After I left the theater I was racking my mind for a deeper meaning to this film, but then I thought to myself, maybe it’s just about how imperfect life can be. And isn’t that a meaning we can all relate to?

Rating: A

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2 thoughts on “The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

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