Derek Cianfrance is on quite a roll for a young filmmaker. His Blue Valentine was mesmerizing and his latest writing-directing effort, The Place Beyond the Pines, is even more astounding.
As shown in The Place Beyond the Pines trailer, the film stars Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes and Bradley Cooper. Their lives will explosively intertwine in ways that will result in hearts broken, lives altered forever and legacies left that not one soul in the audience could have seen coming.
Gosling is a motorcycle daredevil who works in a traveling circus. As the film commences, he’s in a town that we learn he knows well. After finishing his act one evening, he heads over to a former flame’s (Mendes) house. Soon after, he learns that a previous rendezvous with her resulted in a child. Immediately he quits the daredevil business and seeks to settle into this pine tree-laden upstate New York hamlet.
Not qualified for much, Gosling’s Luke feels he has no choice but to use his skills on a motorcycle to knock off local banks. Things seem to be going swimmingly until he encounters Cooper’s rookie cop. It is at that moment that Cianfrance takes what was Gosling’s film and immediately we are off on a Cooper-centric story.
As told to us in our Derek Cianfrance interview, he was inspired by Psycho and Alfred Hitchcock’s storytelling tool in that film where he took Janet Leigh’s movie and at a certain point, it was all Anthony Perkins.
For Cianfrance, the mode of telling his tale works in such unforeseen powerful ways. Where one could think it would feel disjointed, it is in fact seamlessly sensational. Each character’s worlds are more deeply examined by having the focus shift between the two stories.
And caught in the middle, almost serving as the connection that holds the two worlds together is Mendes. It is the performance of her career. She dazzles as a woman torn between what is right and what is wrong, and then what is best for her child.
Cooper and Gosling serve as the film’s brilliant bookends. Gosling goes deep as a man that audiences would not normally cheer for, yet in his hands and with his searing charisma, Luke is someone who we collectively want to succeed.
Meanwhile, Cooper’s Avery is not a one note character, thanks to Cianfrance’s script and Cooper’s performance. He is as conflicted as Luke in so many ways. There are familial, community and personal expectations and they do not all jive. Through Cooper, we see that this is a character that is uncomfortable with fate, yet still manages to wrap himself in it.
Our The Place Beyond the Pines review can easily call this film a must-see. It is almost unfortunate that it is being released in limited release March 29 before going nationwide April 12. This is a film that firmly belongs in the midst of the Oscar season later in the year. But then again, having something this good in the early months of the year is something for which to be grateful.