Writer: Casey Lee
Overall: 4.0 Out of 5
Cast: 4.0 Out of 5
Plot: 4.0 Out of 5
Effects: 4.0 Out of 5
Cinematography: 4.0 Out of 5
Watch this if you liked: "Blue Valentine", "Drive" & "The Town"
Ever since his second feature "Blue Valentine", director Derek Cianfrance has come to be known as an upcoming director with his distinctive vision and flair in making raw stories set in harsh realities, showing the multi-layered struggles of life. For his third feature that had been in the works during the filming of "Blue Valentine", Cianfrance has come to cement his position as a storyteller that puts heart into his stories on an unfazed canvas with "The Place Beyond the Pines".
Reunited with his "Blue Valentine" star, Ryan Gosling plays as a handsome Luke, a motorcycle stunt rider of a traveling circus, who leaves behind his one night girlfriend Romina (Eva Mendes), who unbeknownst to him, is bearing his child after a fling while he was passing through the town of Schenectady. Upon returning to the town a year later, Luke discovers that Romina had borne him a son, but has placed the burden to another man who is more dependable (Mahershala Ali) to act as the child's father instead of the drifting Luke. Shaken to his core by his inability to be a suitable father figure for his son and breadwinner for the mother of the child due to the scrappy wages of his profession, Luke's aggressive attempts of wanting to take care of Romina and his child leads him to eventually come into contact with a low profile bank robber (Ben Mendelsohn), who proposes that they could work together to make a fortune for the well-being of Luke's loved ones, using Luke's special skills with a pair of wheels.
The setup and the trailers deliberately paints a dismal struggle of a man resorting to violent means to meet a caring end, but Derek Cianfrance and his fellow screenwriters Ben Coccio and Darius Marder have used it to set into motion a triptych that is tumultuously tenuous and hauntingly heartbreaking to explore a deeper story about legacies. As each time the torch is passed from one main character to the next and further down the line, the hereditary idea of the sins of the father is explored through the hard hitting circumstances surrounding the life of the characters; whether it is from poverty, a corrupted bureaucracy or a lost sense of identity.
Aided by the silent and still cinematographic brilliance of Steven McQueen's collaborator Sean Bobbitt, the sometimes shaky performance of its cast becomes hard to hate. Ryan Gosling's quick switch from onscreen charm to terrifying ferocity is an effective contrast just as it was when it was seen in Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive". Bradley Cooper, who plays as Avery Cross; a once idealistic law graduate who joins the police force of the small town, shifts the tone to something more domestic but heightens the mood into a different kind of pressure when he wins the admiration of his fellow comrades when his fate becomes intertwined with Luke's, one in particular played by a screen-stealing Ray Liotta.
Dane DeHaan, who plays the grown up son of Luke 15 years later, makes a noteworthy performance as the troubled Jason who has to come to terms with his confused and shrouded upbringing. When his outcast status is welcomed by the friendship of a privileged junkie, AJ, played by mostly Emory Cohen, the rage hidden behind DeHaan's glassy eyes that is brought to the surface is as powerful and sympathetic as it was the first time when he unleashed it in Josh Trank's "Chronicle".
Much like he did for "Blue Valentine" on the breakdown of a relationship and marriage, for "The Place Beyond the Pines", director Derek Cianfrance has weaved a poignant look into legacies; what father passes down to son, whether good or bad, and the vicious cycle it creates that can eats into one's conscience for years. Put that idea into a setting that shows the ugly sides of a world divided by class differences and burned by the fuels of ambition, and you have an emotionally gripping piece of cinema about the best intentions for ones' heir can be corrupted, to take you through its more than 2-hour long runtime that is barely felt.
While it may be still too early to be talking about Oscar buzz and its untimely release may have made it ineligible in the race but "The Place Beyond the Pines" is a film of that caliber that deserves a consideration, whether as an award-nominee or to be seen by an audience who knows how to emotionally invest in a well written and well told story. "The Place Beyond the Pines" has placed Derek Cianfrance beyond any doubt that he is a masterful storyteller of the human condition and whose future works will be one that will be looked forward to.
Cinema Online, 30 July 2013