Written and directed by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), The Place Beyond the Pines is a gripping thriller starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes and Ray Liotta. Three stories intertwine in Cianfrance’s methodical slow-burner, kicking things off with Gosling’s troubled stunt rider. Luke (Gosling) is desperately trying to reconnect with former lover Romina (Mendes), who secretly gave birth to his son when first they met.
In an attempt to provide for his family, he quits the carnival life and takes to robbing banks, putting him on a collision course with ambitious officer Avery Cross (Cooper). Cross wants more for his family too, with plans to move up the ranks of a police department already riddled with corruption. Bribery, theft, dishonour and guilt are the order of the day here, culminating in a final act that comes full circle. To reveal more would be a crime, but rest assured, Cianfrance has followed up Blue Valentine with another exquisite drama.
Gosling is undoubtedly the star of the show and the first act plays like a sequel to Drive, blessed with moody, dreamlike visuals, compelling performances and a haunting score. The second act misses his presence but Cooper is almost up to the task, growing more interesting as the storyline develops, even if his ‘police corruption’ story arc is a little too conventional at times. The tonal shift is quite jarring at first but the pieces are put in place for act three, which sees father and son relationships brought to the forefront.
After 140 leisurely minutes, some viewers might expect a little more closure, but life doesn’t wrap itself in pretty little bows and Cianfrance is all too aware of that. The Place Beyond the Pines is a thoughtful study of consequence, where desperation and desire to do the right thing can prove just as destructive as hate. They say that everything comes in three's, and judging by this sublime drama, I can’t wait to see what Cianfrance does next. AW