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
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.