Reviews

'The Place Beyond the Pines' Is Three Stories Linked by Grit, Father Issues and Family Foes

This is a powerful film offering a fascinating insight into the father and son complex.


The Place Beyond the Pines

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen
Distributor: StudioCanal
Rated: 15
Studio: Hunting Lane Films, Pines Productions, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Silverwood Films
UK Release date: 2013-08-12
Affiliate

From the primary scene we are consumed into the visual magic presented to us by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt. Ryan Gosling’s muscular body is outlined through the darkness as he flicks open and closed a butterfly knife. Discarding the iconic scorpion designed racer jacket for a shiny new red one, Gosling marches through a fairground in an extraordinary long take as the camera races behind him.

The documentary styled deep-focus filmmaking acts as the perfect opportunity for our eyes to catch the impact of dodgems colliding, and for a moment it feels as though we have been transported to Times Square as glittering lights pour onto the screen. Although the story is set far from the New York luxurious dream as the title is based upon -- the English translation of the city Schenectady -- the title foreshadows the shady crime that is destined to follow. The harsh colours and playground melodies heighten our senses to the point where we can almost smell the sweet candyfloss emanating from the stalls.

Despite the rupture of applause that welcomes Luke Glanton (Gosling) when he reaches his destination at the Globe of Death, he appears emotionless. He is numb and tired. We initially understand this state of dissatisfaction through camera direction rather than through Gosling’s facial expressions. The traveller is waiting for something or someone to change his life.

Gosling acts as the same moody mysterious Marlon Brando impersonator that we have previously seen in Drive, only this time he's less motivated by vengeance and more by redemption. He wants to contribute to the life of his new born child.

Glanton is a famous local stunts man who discovers in Altamont, New York that his ex-girlfriend, Romina (Eva Mendes) has given birth to his first boy, Jason. This gives him the perfect excuse to depart from his motorcycle stunt career and to embark on his new role of being a father. Glanton is determined to do what his father could not. However, his methods of providing funding for his child -- partaking in robberies -- makes it only a matter of time before something goes horribly wrong for him.

With this one simple plot we already have a substantial enough story that could last the duration of the film. However, The Place Beyond the Pines is from the mind of Derek Cianfrance; the director who left an everlasting impression upon us through his interpretation of a doomed love story in Blue Valentine. Again, Cianfrance has prevailed in his provocative storytelling through illustrating three connected tales enlightened by fully-round characters.

Usually in films when the protagonist alters halfway through the story, we become distanced to these characters. However, the story in The Place Beyond the Pines flows well; we remain engaged by each central character. The gloomy tone of Blue Valentine is again captured here through the rough realism reminiscent of a Ken Loach film.

Daddy issues are also apparent in the second act of the film. Now, instead of looking at public crime, we are faced with the corruption of the police-force. This brings to mind Silver Linings Playbook, where Bradley Cooper makes it evident that he can act seriously now, in comparison to his earlier Hangover days. Unfortunately, Cooper is still unable to overshadow the grueling intensity that glows from Gosling in each role he masters.

At first we sympathise for Avery Cross (Cooper), as he is a man out of his depth in both his work and in his home life. Cross attempts to make amends for his newbie cop fatal error. However, as he blackmails his way to the top of the police force, he becomes the corrupt symbol in law enforcement. Cross becomes the rebirth of his ever-present father -- who is a judge -- when he ends up running for public office.

The core of this story is discovered within the final chapter of this beautiful trilogy. We are now forced to analyse the next generation, to see how both Glanton and Cross’ sons will develop due to the past consequences of their fathers. Chronicle’s Dane DeHaan puts on a mesmerising performance as the teenage Jason through his fragile characterisation that has resulted in the quest to find his father. Whereas, Avery’s son AJ (Emory Cohen) is an unsympathetic bully who is fueled by the fact that his father wasn’t there for him during childhood.

The film as a whole agrees with the theory that our early nurture (or the lack of it) determines how we will end up in the future, that we are more or less destined to follow in our father’s footsteps. The Place Beyond the Pines is an artistic endeavor that will be enjoyed by those who are interested in the ‘sins of our fathers’ philosophy.

The DVD and Blu-ray release offers one featurette, deleted scenes and a feature commentary from director Derek Cianfrance. Short interview snippets from the cast, including Gosling, Cooper and Mendes, are included in the featurette. We learn here that Cianfrance started writing the part of Avery Cross with Cooper in mind..

8

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image