The Place Beyond The Pines


Reviewed by: Merlin Harries

The Place Beyond The Pines
"Cianfrance should be commended for offering audience something increasingly rare, something truly epic."

The Place Beyond the Pines (a loose translation from the Mohawk origins of the film’s location in Schenectady, New York) owes much to the previous feature of director Derek Cianfrance, Blue Valentine, if only for shaping the self-destructive and visceral verve of Gosling’s character, Luke Glanton.

Gosling’s star, rightly in the ascendancy, finds a worthy opportunity in Pines to showcase the actor’s truly remarkable skill set. Cianfrance, in only his third directorial feature, meanwhile continues to cultivate an auteristic style for which the Canadian actor is an increasingly enviable muse. Much will be made of the film's other fine performances but Gosling is in captivating form. As Glanton emerges from his carnival trailer bedecked in tattoos and a bleach-blond crown, Cianfrance undeniably acknowledges the singular talent which will inevitably define this picture.

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As the film opens amid the hustle and bustle of a thriving carnival, Glanton takes centre stage as a kamikaze motorcycle stuntman, hurling his cacophonous steed around a metal cage, thirsty for the ecstatic audience’s rapturous applause. While skilfully swapping the iconic toothpick of Nicolas Winding Refn’s exquisite Drive (2011) for a seemingly perpetual supply of cigarettes, Glanton drinks in the toxic smoke alongside the equally noxious American dream. This is, perhaps, at the very heart of Cianfrance’s romantically raw tale, the ceaseless struggle between those who seek to thrive and those who are simply able to exist.

Having survived another night, Glanton is reunited with Romina, played with almost elfin subtlety by Eva Mendes, whom he discovers she has borne them a son. His carefree if somewhat wanton life in the carnival is quickly brought to an end as he seeks to furnish his offspring with life’s necessities. A chance encounter with Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) leads the stuntman to realise that funding this newfound fatherhood will require exploits of more questionable legality.

The film is a marathon in the truest sense, spanning two generations and offering an unflinching introspection of the lives of its characters amid a tale which elegantly questions the fundamental principles that govern modern society. Both Liotta, Pines resident crooked cop Deluca, and Mendelsohn give equally admirable turns in Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly (2012), Pines offers something very similar in its menacingly dark depiction of crime and corruption.

As the film progresses, Cooper takes centre stage as rookie cop and disenchanted legal graduate Avery Cross who, like Glanton, finds himself recently and uneasily adjusting to parenthood. While operating on opposing sides of the law, the story gorges on the moral relativism of the very system they both seek to oppose and exploit.

The film is undeniably ambitious in its scope, with Cianfrance exploring the manner in which paternal sins are revisited upon the sons of Glanton and Cross through the fine performances of Dane DeHaan (Jason) and Emory Cohen (AJ). The impenetrable vein of disenfranchisement and corruption weighs as heavily upon the latter generation as the former, with the drug-fuelled parties and punch-ups so immediately symptomatic of raucous teenage rebellion.

The film’s length may prove prohibitive for some but is effortlessly offset by what is a flawlessly shot picture of profoundly emotive intellect. Pines boasts a rich narrative, from the struggles of Cross’ glistening career to the isolation of Robin, jettisoned from the local Schenectady suburbs and unendingly encased in oil and grime, a metaphor for so much of his existence. It is this glossy sheen that Cooper’s Cross so effortlessly exudes which is so unattainable for the likes of Glanton, destined for life-long residency on the fringes of society where any attempt to cross over is met with societal ring-fencing traversable only by illicit means.

When so much of the artistic vision is now so oft left on the cutting room floor or cynically re-packaged as extended edits for DVD release, Pines showcases its story in its cinematic entirety and should be celebrated. In a film that wrestles with numerous genres and is at once, thriller, romance and drama, Cianfrance should be commended for offering audience something increasingly rare, something truly epic.

Reviewed on: 15 Apr 2013
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On discovering that he has a baby son, a circus motorcycle stunt rider approaches responsibility by robbing banks, but runs afoul of a corrupt politician.
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Anne-Katrin Titze ****

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Writer: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta, Emory Cohen, Dane DeHaan

Year: 2012

Runtime: 140 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Glasgow 2013

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