“If you ride like lightening, you’re gonna crash like thunder.”
The Place Beyond the Pines is one of those films that as soon as I saw the trailer for it, I could not wait to finally see it. Examining the trailer, you know that the lives of Luke (Ryan Gosling) and Avery (Bradley Cooper) are going to be connected somehow. It is hard to review this film without giving this away.
Derek Cianfrance wrote and directed the controversial Blue Valentine, and has moved on to a completely different subject. This one revolves around the lives of Luke, Avery, and their sons, Jason (Dane DeHaan) and AJ (Emory Cohen). Luke is a daredevil biker who works the fair circuit across the country. Avery is a local cop, who gave up being a lawyer and following his dad, a judge (Harris Yulin), to be happier in this line of work and make a difference. Unfortunately, he finds out that that cops are not always the good guys. Within the span of a few minutes in the film, Luke and Avery are connected forever. The repercussions of their actions, whether good or bad, have a lasting effect on their lives, those they love, and their sons many years down the road.
The Place Beyond the Pines is essentially four stories in one film; the stories of Luke, Avery, and then AJ and Jason. The sons’ stories are intertwined more so than those of Luke and Avery. It is an interesting approach to a film like this. It is about fathers and sons and their wanting to do good by them, whether it is providing financially or making them proud. There are some hidden back stories to the film that are never really spelled out for the audience. I had the feeling that there is a lot more to the film than I was picking up. It is a film that you want to discuss with others to root out those back stories. I liken the film to a poem. I was never good at getting the deeper meaning of poems, reading more into them than the words on the page. There has to be more to this film than what I picked up. It is one of those things that gnawed at me after the film, and it still does. The film almost demands a second viewing to make sure you have it all in your head right. Talking with director Derek Cianfrance, I tried to explain my feeling to him and he agreed. Not everything is spelled out for you. You have to do some “investigating” of your own to figure out why a character did this or that.
While I admire Cianfrance’s approach to this film, it may not work for everyone who sees it. A complicated film does not always make for a content audience at the end. On top of everything, it is a heavy film with unhappy subject matters, and because of the four stories, it might feel like a long film. Do not see this if you want a light-hearted drama of some sort.
The acting is superb, and I would not expect anything else from this cast. It would have fallen apart if these actors did not wholly inhabit their characters. Nothing is off, and every actor is where they should be. My admiration for Dane DeHaan continues to increase along with my respect for Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper.
One of my only complaints is that the women are the only ones who aged when the film starts to follow the sons’ stories. All the guys look exactly the same, if not better, but the women, Rose Byrne and Eva Mendes, look like hell.
I am keeping my review as vague as possible, and any review that gives away more is doing you a disservice. The Place Beyond the Pines is one of those films where all you need to know about the film going into it is in the first trailer. One of the last scenes is a standout because it draws a beautiful and resonating image of the connection between a father and son. It is a complicated film with a message, but I thoroughly enjoyed the frustrating thought process that it led me on. Not every film makes you think, and that is why I liked this one so much.
I give The Place Beyond the Pines 4 “motorcycle stunt spheres” out of 5.
by Sarah Ksiazek