The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines ★★★½

“If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder”

I have not seen Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, but if it’s near as good as this, I’m all in for it. My expectations for Pines were fairly high, and the film passed with flying colors. It’s similar to The Godfather trilogy in terms of its three distinct acts and reminiscent of The Tree of Life and Upstream Color in terms of its narrative. Pines is an overt story that reminds us the importance of relationships. Whether between two friends, lovers, father and son, memories, or the imagination of what could be. Without a relationship, however currently content, everyone crashes.

This may just be my bias towards Gosling, but do I dare say this is the best performance of the year? Yes. Yes I do. He delivers his lines with such gravitas and makes you feel empathy for his character. Whether he’s at the church crying or laying the beat down, each moment of him on screen is something to remember. He’s a character (Luke) that has been down the beaten-path and thrust into fatherhood. Luke’s never found a reason to stay in one place, but now he has found the first relationship of the story; and he’s willing to do anything to support his son. Along with the tour de force of Gosling is the great ensemble.

Cooper is due to garner the attention from a lot of people. He’s good, no doubt and is the glue to this three-piece narrative. But the real supporting star is Ben Mendelsohn. His relationship with Gosling is truly remarkable. When he sees the danger of Luke, the story is passed on to Cooper’s character, Avery. Cooper is making a mark for himself in the world of film dramas. His character is the most complex character of the story. He’s a man with a lot of relationships. He has a strong relationship with his father and Bruce Greenwood’s character along with bad ties with some cops. Not only that, but the deteriorating relationship with his son and wife due to the resentment he holds because of killing a father.

Fifteen years down the road, his father dies and his whole world starts to collapse. He finally meets Jason, and that was the worst thing that could happen. Jason and Avery’s son form a relationship and once that relationship is broken, all hell breaks loose. Eventually Jason gets to gunpoint with Avery and Avery says something that no one has ever cared to say to Jason, “I’m sorry”. That’s all he needed. That’s all anyone needs. People need the comfort of others. Without that, people turn into hard souls that can’t forgive anyone or themselves. As much as people thought the film should’ve ended when Jason met Robin and it could have, I really appreciated the ending. It completed Cianfrance’s story perfectly. He’s a lost soul without a father but by finding a bike similar to his father, he finds refuge and comfort.

Cianfrance handles the whole film with great care. He spends a great amount of time on character development and provides fantastic lines for each. Each character has at least one moment to shine. He really knows how to bring great acting out of his cast. Everyone here is fantastic, even the usually average Eva Mendes. There are so many characters here. It would usually be a convoluted mess, but the paced screenplay and great ensemble make this ambitious film work. Along with the great script and acting are fantastic technical works.

DP Sean Bobbit handles this film with great care. He’s able to move the camera in tight spaces with ease to provide intimate scenes but handles the high octane scenes with great skill as well. The chase scenes are stunning and visceral. He also captures scenes with great lighting and color as well (see the Stop Light scene or Church scene, man tears there). This is also in part to the fantastic score from Mike Patton. He’s able to transition scenes with ease, each with great outlooks on the characters and overall mood of the scene(s). One scene in particular shows the love of Luke with somber tones and transitions to great anger as he drives off into the night. He never overtakes the film either. Patton lets the script and acting initiate the emotion, and then amplifies the emotions with his composition. If that’s not enough, the editing is what holds the whole film together. Each scene is methodically cut and adds just ----- that much more emotion to the scene.

He’s an obvious talent to reckon with. Full of great performances (hello Oscar?) and fantastic technical aspects, Pines is a film I won’t soon forget and makes me excited for what is to come from Cianfrance. His third film is an intimate and touching portrayal of how our lives are interconnected, and we don’t even realize it until it’s too late.

Sean liked these reviews