The Place Beyond the Pines
Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines is as unsettling as his 2010 film Blue Valentine, which also featured a mesmerizing performance by Ryan Gosling. His is a strikingly nuanced and disciplined role. In this morality tale that spans families and generations, Gosling plays a stunt motorcyclist attached to a traveling carnival. After discovering he's fathered a child with the earthy waitress Romina (a splendid Eva Mendes), Luke decides to man up and try to provide for his son. The problem is Romina has a man, Kofi (Mahershala Ali), and Luke has few skills besides riding a motorbike. Following an introduction to the wily auto mechanic Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), they start robbing banks, which eventually leads to a bloody confrontation between Luke and a green but ambitious beat cop, Avery (Bradley Cooper), who has a young son, himself, and a father who is former New York state Supreme Court justice. It would be easy to write off Pines as a beautifully filmed but disturbing study of cops and robbers as fathers and sons but I think that would be selling short Cianfrance's starkly unsentimental story. This is much more than a bromide about the sins of the fathers being visited upon their sons, though that is certainly a theme. It seems to me the film is mostly about the impermeable connections that tie all of us together and how little control we have over any of them. It's a wonderfully affecting movie. Highly recommended.