In Review: The Place Beyond the Pines

by Vicki Cole on 05/04/2013

place beyond the pines

‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ is an exploration of the relationships between fathers and sons, both absent and present, and the legacy of past mistakes on future generations.  When motorcycle rider Luke (Ryan Gosling) is thrust into the world of fatherhood, he resorts to extreme measures to support his new family, causing his path to cross with a rookie policeman Avery (Bradley Cooper) , the consequences of which ripple throughout the years, and far beyond themselves.

Much like director Derek Cianfrance’s previous offering ‘Blue Valentine’ (2010), ‘Pines’ is very much a character driven piece; relying on wholehearted, bold performances from its cast.  It is evident from both films that Cianfrance has a knack of commanding subtly epic performances from his actors, who immerse themselves in their characters so that they are not just believable in the role they are portraying, but command empathy from their audience.

Gosling is, as always, mesmerising. The subtlety in which he performs, the emotions he is able to convey through facial expressions alone define him as an, if not the, actor of his generation.  Cooper, fresh from an Oscar nomination that moves him away from just being ‘that guy from the Wolf Pack,’ turns in a convincing performance, that while not as effortless as Gosling’s, is dedicated enough to carry the second half of the film.

‘Pines’ seeks to explore a vast number of emotions and ideas that surround and engulf these tormented characters: loneliness, despair, guilt and a need to right previous wrongs only to hurt the people they love the most. It’s a story about life unravelling when these characters are doing everything they can to hold it together.

Despite the effectiveness of his male leads, Cianfrance’s work is not without fault. ‘Pines’ is very much an ambitious piece of work, looking to explore the idea of consequences when these two characters collide, however the actual overlap of Luke and Avery is fleeting and abrupt, which throws the narrative flow off-kilter.

There is also an impressive yet underused supporting cast, most notably Eva Mendes and Ben Mendelsohn, who are never really given enough material to do anything more than introduce their characters.

However, despite these faults, Cianfrance creates some real moments of richness, looking at the decisions which seek to define us and ultimately become our legacy, and the consequences and repercussions of these decisions on future generations when life, ultimately comes full circle.

The somewhat bittersweet finale is scored with a perfect song choice, although the Music Supervisor must be kicking themselves that Rust and Bone (2012) pipped them to the post by using it first.

Vicki has awarded The Place Beyond the Pines four Torches of Truth

four torches

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