The Place Beyond the Pines

Cameron Hines

From the minute I saw the trailer for this movie (with its emotional exposition to the almost unbearable piano chords crashing during the second half of the trailer), I had my suspicions that it would break my heart. My suspicions weren’t unfounded, and director Derek Cianfrance’s film The Place Beyond the Pines has finally arrived after being delayed several months.

The film, without giving too much away, follows Ryan Gosling as a white-trash circus carnie named Luke Glanton, a motorcycle rider. After a one-night fling with Romina (played by the always lovely Eva Mendes), he comes back a year later to discover that he is now a father. Though she lives with her new boyfriend, he insists that he remain in his son’s life and provide for him, no matter the literal and figurative cost. From this need to provide spawns his relationship with Robin, a local junkyard worker, who introduces Luke to the world of bank robbing. Gosling robs the bank, speeds off in his bike, and Robin picks him up. Easier said than done. As is expected, eventually his crimes catch up with him, and soon Luke becomes the target of police officer Avery Cross (played by the always capable Bradley Cooper). Soon he must fight to evade the law and continue to provide for his son.

All of the acting is where it should be: Gosling is emotional and vulnerable as a trashy guy trying to do right by his son. It’s devastating to watch him struggle to be in his son’s life so that his son doesn’t become a burn-out like himself. It’s even more difficult to see Bradley Cooper on the opposite side of the law. Cooper is conflicted and tortured, as he must not only fight his personal demons but also the corrupt cop force which he works for. And Ben Mendelsohn, who plays Robin, is a sad but loveable bum who is just trying to help.

The cast is supported by some fantastic directing by Cianfrance; his direction brings the intensity of the emotional and action scenes. The driving scenes are fast-paced and amped up, as if the cameraman is on crack, and the emotional scenes are shot with such honesty and vulnerability. He captures the look and tone of a small town that suffocates its citizens, and he does so with style.

The script itself is incredibly ambitious and daring, and it’s quite incredible to watch unfold. The story could easily have been much shorter, but it would have taken away from the total impact of the movie. About an hour and a half in you think that the story is wrapped up in a nice bow, but it goes from 0 to 60 and continues to push on. It never feels unnecessarily drawn out because you’re fully invested in these characters and their story.

The film is a beautiful, poignant story of the relationships between fathers and sons, and how one is dependent on the other to be successful. The story could have fallen to cliché and sappiness, but the earnestness of the acting and directing make the film honest and heartfelt. There’s never a moment when you grow bored, because when you’re not watching physical action you’re drawn in by the emotional swells and pains.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a bold, heartbreaking film that constantly keeps you engaged and anticipating future scenes. There are no flashbacks, which adds to a sense of impending doom and that there’s no turning back in this intense drama. It is without a doubt the best movie to come out this year so far and deserves to be seen at least once.