Director: Derek Cianfrance
Hunting Lane Films/Pines Productions/Silverwood Films
Just as it was with Blue Valentine, the previous film from director Derek Cianfrance, The Place Beyond The Pines is quick to tell you it is going to be epic, intense, possibly – at times, anyway – uncomfortable. There’s smoulder, there’s tension, there’s a distinct feel of unease, an almost grimy, murky…well, film smeared deep into the film.
And then burning himself deep into that film/those films is Ryan Gosling, all quiet not-quite-but-probably/eventually psychopath. Yes, he’s done this before in Drive and Blue Valentine and is at risk of being typecast – but evades being written off for the intensity he brings to each role; an ever so slightly different shape is created.
Cianfrance’s films have the Greek tragedy about them; they have hints of Faulkner and Steinbeck in that world-weary examination of people never really close to any American Dream, battlers.
But where Blue Valentine was entirely about the relationship of the two characters and the performance of the two actors Pines has one hell of a supporting cast. And we don’t have to be quite as concerned with the main action and the unfolding of time across many moments, instead we can take in the wonderful score supplied by Mike Patton – enjoy a winning turn from Ben Mendelsohn or the strongest role of Eva Mendes’ career to date; we can let the muted, melancholic tones of the film and its music wash over us and enjoy some of the director’s familiar tricks (dialogue falling on over into voiceover away, scenes creeping toward montage, the passage of time indicated in a broad sweep).
We also get a lot more story here – in that there are three different stories, linked by theme/s, the idea of fathers and sons, legacy, the need to follow desire, the comprising of morals – all of these things combining to allow some almost tenuous twists and links to play out as melodrama transformed into (nearly) high art.
Gosling’s motorbike stuntman Luke turns to robbing banks to provide for the son he has with Mendes’ character, the result of a fling. She’s moved on but is trying to allow visitation and is open to some handouts, even if conflicted. Bradley Cooper’s cop, Avery, hunts down Gosling and the film takes a sharp turn here with corrupt cop Ray Liotta (and really, could there ever be a better choice for that role) and a band of tag-along chumps forcing Avery’s hand toward some vigilante justice.
The film’s final act has the sons of Avery and Luke in the frame and though this is a stretch – and we’ve worked towards nearly two and a half hours by the film’s conclusion there’s still a lot of strength in this movie, via a lot of grim moments. The acting, the pacing, the cinematography and score all move the film forward as an experience – as a cautionary tale that never resolves in any moment of conclusion – because every moment of the film is playing out in reel time (as it were) as its own form of conclusion. There are scenes that are almost brutally tense to sit through – wonderfully so. And there’s this strong sense of linger to the themes – the brood carries on over the final shot, past the credits. You think about it for days. About consequences and actions and the struggle that each person has – how that goes on to inform future generations, or at least could.
A deep movie – one that, like Blue Valentine, was never afraid to be written off as soap-operatic, one that in fact is quite proud of that, totally self aware and still, in the final moments of a huge journey, basks in its own self-confidence, in the choices made.