The Place Beyond The Pines is one of those films that benefits from going in blind. The trailer doesn’t set it up to be the film that it really is, which is a staggeringly good one that stays with you for weeks. Without giving too much away, it follows a story across eighteen years told from three points of view. Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt motorcyclist who, as part of a traveling fair, packs up and leaves every so often. When he finds out he’s fathered a child with Romina (Eva Mendes) he decides to stay and support them by using his motorcycling skills to help him rob banks. This puts him on a collision course with ambitious policeman, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). The consequences of this collision change both their lives, and carry through to the next generation.
Everything about this film is beautifully put together, in much the same way as Blue Valentine. From Ryan Gosling himself to the cinematography to the score, it’s all stunning. Director Derek Cianfrance must be some kind of magician because the performances he draws out of his actors are incredible. Bradley Cooper gives what might just be his best performance yet and Ryan Gosling is his usual brilliant self, but the real standout is Dane DeHaan. As Jason, Gosling’s now teenage son, he outshines the rest of the cast as the boy struggling with his identity and later, his father’s legacy. There’s one scene in particular, between DeHaan and Cooper, that stands out from the rest of this brilliant film. It’s an electric and moving scene and one that is sure to put DeHaan on every director’s most wanted list. Eva Mendes is also at her best, having been cast not for her sex appeal but her acting skills. She gives a raw performance as Jason’s mother that is carried through all three stages of the film wonderfully. There will be some disagreement here, but the final section is the best part of the film. When the consequences of what happens between Avery and Luke invades the lives of their sons, the film starts to come together and build towards its bittersweet conclusion.
It’s worth mentioning Mike Patton’s gorgeous score. The main theme is just a simple melody played over chords and it’s certainly effective. Shown in the trailer, a shot of a character driving down an empty road with the score behind it goes from a relatively mundane, albeit beautifully filmed image, to one that draws every possible emotion. In itself, the score is a masterpiece and it’s a shame it was abandoned for a moment towards the end of the film. Mike Patton has done a wonderful job scoring a film that almost doesn’t need a score, such is the quality of the performances.
This is a very brave film, for various reasons, and possibly one of the most engaging stories of this year. If there are flaws, they are minor and overshadowed by the brilliance of everything and everyone else. There isn’t a bad performance and only a few minutes that could be cut. As said before, it’s a beautifully constructed film and one that should top this year’s best of lists. Not only is this one of the best films of the year, it’s far better than Cianfrance’s previous film Blue Valentine. Whilst that is also very well put together and performed, The Place Beyond The Pines is a step up to another level. It’s an engaging, moving and bittersweet crime and family drama that quietly builds itself up to the staggeringly good conclusion. This is a director, and a film, to get very very excited about.
The Place Beyond The Pines is in cinemas 12th April 2013.
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes
Runtime: 140 min