THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

Words: DANIEL OWEN
May 23, 2013

Derek Cianfrance wastes no time in capturing Ryan Gosling’s mythic abs as he opens his latest film, ambitious and mythic in tone, with the image of a pacing stunt driver confined to his small trailer, the billowing sounds outside those belonging to a funfair. Cianfrance’s camera doesn’t cut. Instead, we see Gosling stab his flick-knife […]


Derek Cianfrance wastes no time in capturing Ryan Gosling’s mythic abs as he opens his latest film, ambitious and mythic in tone, with the image of a pacing stunt driver confined to his small trailer, the billowing sounds outside those belonging to a funfair. Cianfrance’s camera doesn’t cut. Instead, we see Gosling stab his flick-knife into a wall, pick up his red jacket, slip on a Metallica vest and make his away across the carnival landscape. We follow from behind, the announcer calls the name of Handsome Luke and Gosling mounts his motorbike, the camera still doesn’t cut. Immediately there is a sense of importance, and The Place Beyond the Pines is definitely treated, and consequently feels spectacular and reverent as Cianfrance proceeds to tell a story of fatherhood amidst a cops and robbers narrative spanning 15 years.

Despite receiving great critical acclaim at Sundance, Cianfrance’s first feature, Brother Tied, failed to pick up distribution. His second – and first outing with friend and subsequent colleague Ryan Gosling – had no trouble picking up distribution when Harvey Weinstein displayed interest. Blue Valentine went on to deliver awards for Michelle Williams in the Best Actress category whilst Cianfrance himself admits that it was the success of this film that allowed him to go on to make The Place Beyond the Pines, a film less about the faltering relationships of a modern day couple and more about the faltering relationships of modern day families. The story unfolds as a triptych. Gosling’s taciturn stunt driver, reminiscent of his role in Drive, is confronted upon his return to Schenectady, an upstate New York town with a name that translates from Mohawk to ‘the place beyond the pines’, by Romina (Eva Mendes) and the news that he has fathered an infant son. He wants to provide for his son, but as a friendly fugitive mechanic played by Ben Mendelsohn tells him, the only way to do so is by using his particular skill set. Unlike Liam Neeson and the deployment of his skill set in Taken, however, Luke is clearly affected by his foray into bank robbing, and the result is realism.

Consequently, Luke crosses paths with a fresh-faced Bradley Cooper, just out of law school and eager to make an impact on the New York police force which holds as much integrity as the one Al Pacino faces in Serpico. It comes as no surprise that Ray Liotta’s character, the frosty and domineering Deluca, is central to such corruption. Cooper and Gosling provide a strong basis for the film and yet, surprisingly, the film doesn’t falter in its third act which, after some tenuous expositional scenes, provides a satisfying, cathartic conclusion. Impressive parallel shots serve to enforce the link between the three stories and a score from Faith No More’s Mike Patton heightens the film’s grandeur. Cianfrance’s third feature film is certainly more ambitious than the character drama of Blue Valentine and is all the richer for it. With a running time of 140 minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome and, instead, leaves you thirsting for whatever Cianfrance does next. With Gosling claiming to be taking a break from acting, he may well have found his new leading man in Bradley Cooper, an actor who has shown truly unexpected promise and talent since The Hangover.




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