In the film’s introductory scene–a long, continuous shot following Ryan Gosling (“Drive”) in a busy New York carnival–there is a metal cage in which Luke (Gosling) is bound to remain riding for as long as nature finds its way to repeat itself. I’m very much impressed with director Derek Cianfrance, who has previously worked with Gosling in the marital tragedy “Blue Valentine,” in his bold attempt to tell this thoughtful story of fatherhood and fate. The film loses momentum toward its evanescence, but Luke’s doings and undoings–those little times we have spent with him–linger in our minds, haunt us, and thus preserve the film’s collective effect. Gosling is such a theatrical marvel (see also: “Lars and the Real Girl”), and has proven himself to be one of the brightest talents of contemporary cinema, let alone the largest commodity of the film.
The same can be said about Derek Cianfrance, whose picture is made ever more ambitious by cutting the narrative into thirds. It’s a bold step (and some will argue for misstep) that divides audiences due to the film’s focus being frequently shifting, but rewards greater power in effect thanks to committed performances, careful plotting and deft direction. His “Pines” basically sees Gosling’s character learning about his son with his former lover Ro (Eva Mendes). His life lacked meaning, purpose and direction, and just hitherto had one, and only one–to provide for his family. “Good luck supporting your family on minimum wage,” his ex-con/mechanic friend Robin (Ben Mendelshon) taunts. The two of them orchestrate a set of petty bank heists until that one pursuit with the cops changed all.
“The Place Beyond the Pines” is a film about people’s imprisonment to their fates. There are two scenes to visually support this; one, is with the circular metal cage in which Luke performs motorbike stunts, two, is set in the streets which begins with a close-up of Luke’s face, tinted by a red light, and suddenly by a green one. Green always meant go, and it means the same in this, too; but he didn’t. He stayed on the road, looking at the bank they are to later on thieve. He is stuck. But he’s got to do this for his son, so he breaks himself out of his reverie, and finally rides on. The film is filled with such symbolism and they are placed carefully for great effect.
Bradley Cooper’s entrance to the story creates a new chunk of narrative–one that finds bigger expectations for the audience, and perhaps, bigger let downs. He plays this clean policeman named Avery. He tries to do good, but is constantly drawn to bad things. Just in his first six months on the force, his conscience is greatly tortured when he inadvertently ruins Luke’s life, especially that of Luke’s son’s, and get tied up with a dirty police work along with his colleagues (see: Ray Liotta’s unnerving performance as head-dirty cop). Cooper lets us in to this man’s mind, and we see someone who is battered from within, and how staggering it is to us that he continues on for his son. He carries on this burden for fifteen long years, until their sons–Luke’s and his, played respectively by Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan–resume a rather underwhelming tragedy in the film’s conclude.
Scenic cinematography and intense scoring lift this tender story of entanglement, tragedy and family–one that is theatrically presented with precise skill and pure heart. Derek Cianfrance diversifies his filmography (see: the enthralling chase sequence) with “Pines,” and it’s one worth to follow.
RATING: 3.5 stars (out of 4)
WHAT OTHERS HAD TO SAY:
- “An epic tale of crime and corruption, and fathers and sons.” — Fogs from Fogs Movie Reviews (read the review)
- “As the movie progresses it lingers in your mind.” — Nostra from My Filmviews (read the review)
- “Gosling brings magnetism to the screen which only very few actors are capable of.” — James from Mr. Rumsey’s Film-Related Musings (read the review)