When Luke discovers he has an infant son, he decides to do whatever it takes to provide for him, and be the father that he never had. This decision has consequences, and these consequences ripple through time. Review of The Place Beyond the Pines after the jump.
Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a solitary figure, a traveller, who spends his days crisscrossing America as a motorcycle stunt driver as part of a travelling circus. When Luke finds out he has an infant son with a woman (Eva Mendes) that he had an affair with one year earlier, he decides to stay in town and provide for them. He knows nothing about parenting, but he knows what it was like not to have a father around, and he doesn’t want the same fate for his son.
Luke meets Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), an auto-shop owner who gives him part-time work. Realising the money from the auto-shop won’t cut it, Robin suggests that Luke uses his “very specific skill set” (being a thug and ace motorcycle rider) to rob banks; something Robin has done successfully in the past. This decision steers Luke into the life of Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a young lawyer-turned cop. Avery is an upstanding officer in a police force filled with cops that have questionable morals and dirty dealings aplenty. The film switches focus and follows Avery, a man struggling in a force that isn’t what he naively thought it would be, with family who expected more from him.
We also meet two teenage boys played by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen who are dealing with family issues of their own; all while navigating the murky waters of high school and awkwardly straddling the transition from boy to man.
In The Place Beyond the Pines, writer-director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) again explores powerful themes in a haunting and emotionally resonant way. Gosling’s character Luke is reminiscent of a lone ranger – he doesn’t have roots anywhere and wanders the country in search of something that he cannot name. He finds what he didn’t know he was looking for when he meets his son. Now he has a purpose. For once he wants to do something beyond just surviving; he wants to be a dad. Heavy with daddy issues of his own, Luke flounders and turns to what he knows to try to create something for his son.
In Cooper’s character, Avery, we find a man with his own father issues. His successful father looks down on his position as an officer, and pushes him to more. Despite almost fearing his father, Avery at least has a father to turn to when things get tough; Luke does not.
Pines is very much about the presence of active fathers, and the difference that they make in their sons lives, both good and bad. Without fathers, sons are lost, searching for who they are. While sons who have fathers may have more of an identity, they also have the ghosts of their father’s pasts to navigate. How much those ghosts impact the sons seems to depend on the strength of their fathers guidance.
Cooper and Gosling both deliver powerful and restrained performances in Pines, with Gosling in particular bringing the goods with his cool, but emotionally charged portrayal. Dane DeHaan also impresses with his quiet take on a troubled teenager. The often overlooked Mendes is heartbreaking as the mother of Luke’s child – she is the anchor throughout the film.
The photography in this film is absolutely stunning. From the garish lights of the fairground, to the high-intensity rides through the woods and the truly heart-wrenching moments; cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (Shame, Hunger) has captured it wonderfully. Accompanying the beautiful visuals is an equally beautiful and affecting original score from Mike Patton.
Pines does overstay it’s welcome, with a slightly wayward third act making the film run fifteen to twenty minutes longer than it should. There are also some contrivances in the latter stages of the film which stretch the audience’s ability to buy into plot developments.
The Place Beyond the Pines is an astounding film that has stayed with me long after the final credits rolled.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Writer(s): Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper, Ben Mendelsohn, Dane DeHaan
Runtime: 140 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: May 9 2013; USA: March 29 2013 (limited)