Ryan Gosling approaches the role of motorcycle stuntman Luke with the same silent intensity as he did with his stoic driver in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, in this generational drama about fatherhood by Derek Cianfrance, who Gosling worked with previously on Blue Valentine.
The film opens sometime in the 90’s in a humble little NY county, and we watch Gosling reunite with a woman who reveals to him that he has a baby boy. Choosing to stick around rather than continue his nomadic lifestyle, Luke attempts to obtain the happiness inherent in parenthood while fighting his own animalistic nature and unstable upbringing, all of which comes to a head to devastating results.
Gosling really brings a sensitive yet unpredictably dangerous side to the character, and that he can do it without lengthy dialogue is not only good writing, but good acting. Some people don’t dig Gosling’s style, but I like how concise he is. Every bit of dialogue, every mannerism has meaning.
Luke resorts to robbing banks to provide for his baby boy, and it’s during one of these robberies that Bradley Cooper’s cop, Avery Cross, gets involved, and shifts the direction of the story as we watch him deal with the aftermath and contend with corruption in his police department.
Cooper gives a good performance as a man thrust into a precarious situation, with a baby boy of his own to look after, he summons wily determination to fight his way out of corrupt cop Ray Liotta’s crosshairs.
The script written by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder gains complexity in a variety of ways, though the theme of fatherhood is a constant throughout, to the point that the story shifts for a third time in the last half and we observe how the long strands of causality impact future generations.
There are moments in the film that stretch believability, but because they are in service of character development, I can let them slide. The shifts in narrative are also ambitious and risky, but I appreciated the different facets Cianfrance wanted to explore in his story.
The music by Mike Patton is a real boon to the film, a melancholic subtle style that doesn’t try to hammer home how you should be feeling about any given scene.
The Place Beyond The Pines is an ambitious film that spans years in its exploration of two men and the morally ambiguous choices they make to navigate the responsibilities demanded by fatherhood. Cianfrance reminds me of Andrew Dominik, both filmmakers are making thoughtful films with high caliber casts. They have a bright futures ahead of them and are helping the fight against brainless cinema clogging up the box office.