The Place Beyond the Pines
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 7th July 2013
Two years ago we raved about director Derek Cianfrance’s labour of love, the devastatingly exquisite Blue Valentine which he’d taken ten years to make, culminating in one of the best performances you’ll ever see from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.
Happily, Cianfrance took a fraction of that time to bring us his second feature film and, re-teaming with Gosling and lavishing us with an incredible supporting cast and music by Arvo Pärt and Faith No More’s Mike Patton, his latest output is almost as brilliant.
Gosling plays an imperfectly tattooed, motorcycle stunt rider, still handsome as his knuckles purport, but a drifter whose life lacks purpose until he discovers he fathered a child with ex-girlfriend Romina (Eva Mendes, Gosling’s real-life belle). Determined to stick around and prevent his newfound son growing into the fatherless delinquent he became, Luke takes to bank robbery as a way to support his family. However, his choices bring him into tragic contact with Bradley Cooper’s ambitious young cop, and as the story progresses we see how family lines are influenced and fractured by the sins of our fathers.
The principal storyline is as beautifully photographed and told as Blue Valentine, moving apace through an exciting plot as each new character takes centre stage. Cooper is terrific, his moral compass needle swinging wildly as he comes into contact with a stomach-turning Ray Liotta. Ben Mendelsohn, Bruce Greenwood and Dane DeHaan provide excellent support, glueing together what almost feels like three stories into one long thread.
Despite a few plot contrivances and the long running time, Cianfrance’s latest is luscious, affecting and utterly engrossing.