Movie Review – The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Stars: Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper, Mahershala Ali, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, Dane DeHaan, Rose Byrne, Gabe Fazio, Harris Yulin, Emory Cohen

Luke (Gosling) is a stunt motorcycle driver who suddenly finds out that he has fathered a child. In an effort to be there for his family he quits the carnival and turns to robbing banks. A cop, Avery (Cooper) is in pursuit and both of them, and their sons, will have to deal with the consequences of their actions and the legacy they leave behind to the world.

The Place Beyond the Pines starts off incredibly slowly. In fact for the first hour I wondered what the film actually had in store because it seemed to be a minimalistic film focusing on Luke and a handful of supporting characters. Around the hour mark, however, the film shifted into gear and I found it absolutely absorbing. It’s broadly split into three sections, although they follow on from one another and the story is tied up in all of the characters. With Luke we see a man that is trying to do the right thing in a world where he’s blessed with only one talent, and he uses it to rob banks. In Avery we’re shown a tortured soul who struggles with what he’s done, yet always remains on the side of good even when temptation falls into his lap, and yet even he isn’t free to turn into the man he probably wanted to become. Then we have the sons, and we witness how the past affects their present and future.

I loved how the story unfolded and it reminds me of a story I once wrote. A lot of times in films I wonder what happens to the characters after the final scene. The Place Beyond the Pines takes this concept and shows how our decision shape the things around us. After the film ended it lingered on my mind and I was thinking about how the story would have changed had the characters made slightly different decisions along the way.

Given that there are basically three segments of the film sometimes the pacing can feel jarring as one ends and we’re introduced to a whole new set of characters. It can seem like the last piece didn’t get to settle before we’re onto the next, and a few of the characters aren’t as fleshed out as they perhaps could have been, for example Rose Byrne’s character. I liked the merging of different themes though, and I just love this type of story where the changes ripple through and we can see the lasting effects.

Although it started slow I really enjoyed this one and found it enthralling. I love the concept of showing the legacy of the characters and the contrasts between Avery and Luke. The ending is completely poetic and ties in with the beginning of the movie, and I haven’t even spoken about DeHaan and Cohen yet, who do a lot with a little. This is a fantastic movie and I highly recommend it.


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