I’d heard about this movie only a few months ago and was intrigued to see this for two reasons: the cast and director/writer Derek Cianfrance. Both of which did not disappoint.
The Place Beyond The Pines tells a three-arc story beginning with an amateur criminal named Luke (Ryan Gosling), continuing with a police officer named Avery (Bradley Cooper) and concluding the story, fifteen years later, with their sons Jason and AJ (Dane Dehaan and Emory Cohen).
This movie isn’t exactly the type of film that will win the mainstream, but if you give this a chance, the layers you have to peel through to get to the center of the movie is extremely satisfying. This is not a film that gives easy answers and I’m grateful that people still make films like these. Many will be turned off and feel the tinge of boredom creep in but trust me when I say, the slight suffering you’ll have to endure provides an amazing payoff in the end. It doesn’t necessarily wrap itself into a nice, neat bow, but then again I don’t think all movies should.
Ryan Gosling delivers the best performance of the movie. Playing a motorcycle racer who’s come to town and finding out he has a son, Jason, he wants to provide for, offers a new challenge for Gosling to portray. He’s a loner with a heart and unfortunately in life, timing for situations always finds a way to change your course and purpose. Gosling transitions to that with ease. And you just know these are the types of characters that seem to resonate closest to who Ryan Gosling is, more than anything else, because he just does it so damn well. It’s a subtle performance that gradually grows into something more and by the end of the film, your understanding of his arc to the story resonates the deepest and influences everything the movie is about.
The first arc of the story leads to things that bring about the second arc – the story of Avery played by Bradley Cooper. Cooper does a fine job playing an idealistic cop who becomes affected by the conclusion of Luke’s story. It affects him most because he has a son that’s the same age as Jason and his inner demons that haunt him during Luke’s story influences the reversal of fortune in his. Bradley Cooper isn’t exactly the right actor I’d see in this role but he pulls it off quite well (esp in certain scenes involving his son). While not as affecting as Gosling, he does have moments in his story that make you feel for Avery and his reasoning behind his actions. He’s not perfect but when he tries to be, it works and unfortunately his story comes off after Ryan’s so it feels disjointed.
The third and final arc involves Avery and Luke’s sons AJ and Jason. If you’ve given up on this story after Cooper’s arc, then you’re missing the point of this film by not seeing the third and final piece. This is where things come to a head and where you’ll find out the purpose of all this is leading to. Emory Cohen who plays AJ gives a performance that is so unlike the other characters in the film that it seems completely out of place. But understanding where the character comes from explains why he gives a very nuanced performance. Cianfrance writes the setup for his character so well that as much as it feels weird, it actually makes the most sense. Luke’s son Jason is the one we have to pay attention to the most because he is essentially the center of the whole film. Played by Dane Dehaan (Andrew in last year’s Chronicle), he almost steals the show from under Gosling in so many of ways. His character is the basis for Cianfrance’s lesson on fathers and sons and his performance defines the whole meaning of the movie. It’s a great performance that won’t get much attention but it should.
If this film is still playing near you, see it now and if it isn’t anymore, definitely make it a point to see it when it comes out on blu-ray.