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Review: The Place Beyond the Pines is cool and refreshing

Posted by on April 5, 2013 – 12:00 am

The Place Beyond the PinesI expected The Place Beyond the Pines to be a realistic crime drama in the same vein as Ryan Gosling’s edgy and atmospheric film, Drive (directed by Nicolas Winding Refn – 2011), and it is certainly a gritty and stylishly cool thriller, but with a unique narrative that is surprising and refreshing.

The Place Beyond the Pines is written (with Ben Coccio and Darius Marder) and directed by Derek Cianfrance, who also collaborated with Gosling on his film, Blue Valentine, and it is a story with three acts that are interconnected by the sins of fathers and the prices that are paid by the sons of those transgressors.

This movie takes incredible turns and goes places that I never would have expected from simply watching the film’s trailer, so I’m hesitant to say too much about plot specifics as I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for viewers who enjoy an unorthodox tale. I believe the less you know about this movie’s story the more you are going to enjoy its telling.

So the dilemma is, ‘What can I say about this film without ruining it?’ The Place Beyond the Pines is the translation of the Mohawk word, Schenectady, which is the name of the beautiful little community in New York State where the film is set and where most of it was filmed. The secluded wooded area outside of the city limits is also the location where the film’s characters conceive and/or carry out their immoral deeds.

The Place Beyond the PinesGosling plays Luke Glanton, a stunt-motorcycle rider in a traveling circus and an ex-con, whose specialty is riding within a circular metal cage at the same time with two other riders, defying death as they rapidly cross each other’s paths — symbolic of the way in which the movie’s character’s lives intersect with life-altering consequences.

The lovely Eva Mendes plays Romina, a waitress who had a “fling” with Luke the last time the carnival was in town and whose life is forever altered by her singular dalliance. Both Mendes and Gosling deliver amazing performances in this film, eliciting sympathy for their somewhat callous and careless characters.

The film’s very fine ensemble cast also includes Ben Mendelsohn as Luke’s friend and crime cohort, Ray Liotta plays his usual smarmy bad cop role, Bradley Cooper is Avery Cross, a cop who is stuck between a rock and a hard place, Harris Yulin plays a former Judge and Avery’s father, Mahershala Ali is Romina’s boyfriend and Dane DeHaan (who is Harry Osborn in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2) plays her son.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a sort of Rich Man, Poor Man study of how parent’s lives have long term and often ill effects on their children and explores the theory that, ‘what goes around comes around,” and the difficulties of  breaking out of that cycle. This is a smart, different and well-crafted film that will shock you and will likely have you taking stock of your life. Grade: 8/10

Photos © 2013 Focus Features