March 31, 2013 by Vinnie Leduc
The one obligatory indie included on our list of most anticipated movies this year, The Place Beyond the Pines is the second major feature from writer and director Derek Cianfrance, known for guiding his previous couple of leads in the romantic drama Blue Valentine to awards recognition. His sophomore effort again features Ryan Gosling and continues to explore love and misery, but this time Cianfrance drops the romance and instead shifts his focus on another type of emotional relationship, that between a father and his son. The result? The Place Beyond the Pines isn’t as excellent as Blue Valentine, but it’s still a good film and thankfully not as hopeless, depressing, and crushing, i.e. I didn’t feel like killing myself afterwards.
Consisting of three acts of a long story that takes you deeper and farther than the trailer reveals, The Place Beyond the Pines might have you thinking that you have an idea of where it’s going and what it ultimately leads to, but you’ll probably be surprised more than once along the way. As he did so well in Blue Valentine, Cianfrance spurns the fluff you’d expect in most movies and delivers his hard-hitting material in a more realistic way, even if it’s ugly and not what audiences may want to digest. And yet somehow, it’s all beautiful.
What’s also beautiful is the great acting from the key players and the supporting cast. Like in Drive, Oscar and Golden Globe nominee Ryan Gosling plays a soft-spoken pseudo-mute with a murky secret and a penchant for skilled handling of motor vehicles. Informed by his ex-lover (real-life girlfriend Eva Mendes) that she’s been raising his son, Gosling’s character tries to do the right thing and become more involved, but his efforts eventually set off a timeline with long-lasting repercussions. The narrative then brings in Bradley Cooper’s character. Even before Silver Linings Playbook, the newly minted Oscar and Golden Globe nominee exhibited in The Words that he can play a man haunted by his inner demons stemming from his own secret, and Cooper repeats the feat here in The Place Beyond the Pines.
Dane DeHaan also needs to be recognized. His performance in The Place Beyond the Pines is the perfect complement to his brilliant turn as an angst-ridden teen in Chronicle, and it’s no surprise that he’s been cast as Harry Osborn in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man sequel. Finally, it’s always a pleasure to see Golden Globe nominee Ray Liotta, even in the typical role that’s defined his career and even if it’s pretty short.
If you need a break from the bullets and bombs blasting away the box office, take a trip to The Place Beyond the Pines, where you’ll be rewarded with a well-acted display of paternal legacy and despair. After an adrenaline-pumping conclusion to the first act, The Place‘s pace decelerates for the last two thirds, but Cianfrance keeps his story engaging enough that you’ll excuse the lengthy running time and appreciate that the movie’s not as heart-wrenching as Blue Valentine. The Place Beyond the Pines gets 3.5 out of 5 stars.