The Place Beyond the Pines film review: Of fathers and sons

The Place Beyond the Pines is the second film directed by Derek Cianfrance, the acclaimed director of Blue Valentine. In this case, hiding behind the appearances of a crime drama, Cianfrance offers us a story of two families, of trying to do the right thing, of the many problems life can have. The story of a criminal, a cop and a lost kid who’s trying to figure out where he comes from.

All in all a very entertaining movie, The Place Beyond the Pines has the ability to change its main character not only once – but twice. First, we’re told the story of handsome Luke, a careless motor bike stuntman who goes from fair to fair living a quiet life. It’s a life without much meaning, but a nice life. When he discovers he has a son from a fling he had the previous year he changes his ways, deciding he wants to be in the kid’s life. He means well, but has no idea of how to do it. He’s violent, uneducated, unwanted. Mistakes pile up and after a few months our stuntman has become a criminal. A criminal chased by the police who finally catches up to him.

After a thrilling chase sequence we see with horror how the hero of the film is no more – there is another hero in the making: Bradley Cooper’s Avery Cross, rookie cop, good guy. Troubled by what he’s done and troubled by the shady moves of the not-so-good police he thought were helping people, Cooper’s character changes. The consequences of his acts force Cross’ character to evolve, but the handsome Luke incident is always haunting him, like a shadow. Fifteen years later the stories of these two men collide when his teenage sons Dane DeHaan loner-stoner Jason and Emory Cohen disgusting rich kid AJ meet.

The Place Beyond the Pines brings us great interpretations, especially by Ryan Gosling (with many reminiscences to his character in noir cult Drive) and Bradley Cooper who portrays a character very easy to identify with. He’s ambitious, yes, but ultimately very human. However, this movie’s greatest asset is not (only) the acting, but its script and direction. The movie is written and told in a way in which you suddenly become all this characters. It has a very strong narrative power.  You love the characters for their faults and their values, get lost in their stories. (I want to mention Ben Mendelsohn character, Luke’s boss, becuase he is probably the mist adorable criminal I’ve seen in years). And suddenly it’s been over two hours and you’re so happy, so satisfied with what you’ve seen.

Cianfrance’s film is not, by any means, a perfect one. There are some passages where the movie slows down – like the start of the section of the kids. The story of Avery Cross’ estrangement with his wife feels a bit underplayed, too. The end feels a bit underwhelming, and lacks the narrative quality (in my opinion) that the rest of the film has. But funnily enough, I cannot see any other ending happening.

But they don’t make the movie any less emotional, any less beautiful and poetic. The soundtrack adds a lot to the atmosphere It’s detailed, rich, varied, fresh – a very good film. Analyzing morals, family relationship, and the past that haunts us, The Place Beyond the Pines provides emotion and poetry without ever becoming boring.

Grade: B

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About the author: Clara Luja Azpiri
Clara Luja Azpiri
Currently working as an English and Basque teacher, I'm from Bilbao, in the north of Spain. My passions are rock, cinema and all things british. I love sci-fi and fantasy, -especially in TV shows and movies- and I also love vampires, time travel, parallel/alternate realities and gossip! The shows I'm following right now are Vampire Diaries, Revenge, Gossip Girl and Doctor Who.

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