Ryan Gosling reunites with his ‘Blue Valentine‘ director Derek Cianfrance for another powerful and character driven film. ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ is an intense look at the effects of certain actions passed on from father to son over the course of 15 years. However, while this story packs a punch, it also changes direction too suddenly to keep a lucid flow. Each act takes place in a different time with a different lead. Nevertheless, its notable cast (which consists of Gosling and recent Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper) might help this indie production garner a little attention and box office success.
The movie’s script was written by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder. If you don’t know who Ben Coccio is, I highly suggest you seek out a little film he made called ‘Zero Day‘. Regardless, the screenplay here suffers in the mid section a bit when we focus on Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a hard-working and nice guy with a good job and a great family. As the story goes, Cross gets off track and becomes a somewhat ignorant character for no rhyme or reason. Despite this, the first storyline with Luke (Ryan Gosling) as a motorcycle stunt rider, and the last part that deals with his teenage son, do a much better job of staying focused.
We first meet Luke in the opening shot of the film, as we see a shirtless Gosling bruised and tattooed up. We follow him as he puts on his jacket and helmet, walks through a traveling carnival and gets into a steel ball to ride a motorcycle upside down with other motorists. As the carnival stops in Schenectady, NY, he crosses paths with a past relationship named Romnia (Eva Mendes), who works as a waitress at a shoddy diner and has a new love in her life. But her feelings for Luke haven’t left, and Luke soon finds out that she’s raising his infant son named Jason.
Luke desperately wants to be a part of his boy’s life. Not earning enough money at the carnival, he takes a job with an odd mechanic named Robin (Ben Mendelsohn). These two conjure up a plan to make more money by using Luke’s motorcycle skills to rob banks. When news of their bank robberies spreads, new cop Avery Cross (Cooper) crosses paths with Luke, which leads to disaster.
We then focus on Avery Cross and his journey to public office, and all the toes and departments he steps on during the way. This is where the story loses a bit of steam, as Cooper’s character isn’t drawn out coherently. It doesn’t much sense why he does some unorthodox things, such as going after fellow cops, crooked or not.
Then, suddenly, the film jumps 15 years into the future without warning to find Luke’s teenage son Jason (Dane DeHaan) and Avery’s son AJ (Emory Cohen) meet each other at school and form a bizarre friendship, not knowing who each other’s fathers are. Once they find out, things take a turn for the worse as we watch things come full circle and the kids follow the same mistakes their father’s made.
Gosling and DeHaan do incredible jobs here. We really feel their pain and struggle to do good, while clumsily screwing it up. Bradley Cooper is, as always, very charismatic, but his character doesn’t flow in an organic way, thus making him not relatable. Eva Mendes’ short performance is striking and believable. She gives her all as a confused woman who only wants the best for her son and family. Ray Liotta also has a decent cameo as a creepy crooked cop.
Cianfrance’s camerawork is very impressive. He uses a mix of handheld and Steadicam to show us the raw and physical state of his characters’ struggles. He really puts us in the face of the drama and tension. Mike Patton’s eerie and affecting score drives up the turmoil of this multi-generational piece. Despite its lumpy and abrupt flow, ‘A Place Beyond the Pines’ is a terrific yet tragic film that tries to show the effects of constant bad decisions passed down from generation to generation.
CLICK HERE to watch my interview with director Derek Cianfrance.