Derek Cianfrance’s 2010 film Blue Valentine was a powerful portrait of a relationship gone awry. It featured searing performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Now Cianfrance & Gosling have teamed up again for the compelling 2013 crime drama, The Place Beyond The Pines. It begins as the story of motorcycle stunt rider Luke Glanton (played by Gosling) who is touring the country with a traveling carnival. When he runs into an old flame, he discovers he fathered a child with her. He decides to quit the carnival, and remain in town to provide for the boy. Luke ends up turning to robbing banks to get money for his son. He has a fateful encounter with a young cop named Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) who will have to make some important & life-changing decisions of his own.
This generational crime saga ends up going in directions you don’t expect. It’s a story about fathers & sons and the choices they make. Luke & Avery are men whose decisions echo across the years, and affect the other people in their lives in ways they can’t comprehend. Are the results of these choices fated? Could things have gone differently if these men traveled a different road? Are the sins of the fathers revisited upon their sons? This is an effective, often darkly themed film that doesn’t offer any easy answers.
The cast is peppered with familiar faces, including Ray Liotta, Eva Mendes and veteran character actor Harris Yulin as Cross’ father. Gosling & Cooper are very good, and if you’re used to seeing Cooper in more comedic roles, he will surprise you here. The film has a good sense of atmosphere, and is well directed by Cianfrance. You can almost feel the pull of fate on these characters, and the bleak lives that drive them to make difficult & risky decisions. The movie reaches for an epic feel that sometimes isn’t there, and portions of the story could have used a deeper focus, but this is a challenging film that isn’t a cookie cutter thriller. It's well worth your time; Cianfrance is a talented filmmaker, and I look forward to his next project. The movie is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and online for various forms of digital viewing. If you’re seeking something a little out of the ordinary for movie night, I recommend checking out The Place Beyond The Pines. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz5jTy_lukk.