It’s rare when a movie isn’t halfway spoiled before one ends up seeing it. Even for me, who sees most movies before they release. But in the case of The Place Beyond the Pines, I went in only knowing what the trailer had told me. I had no idea that a riveting, raw and thought-provoking drama was in store for me. The Place Beyond the Pines is a showcase of exquisite filmmaking with a story and message that will resonate with you for days afterward.
I’ll keep the summary pretty vague here, since I think not knowing what this movie is about really adds to the experience. The Place Beyond the Pines follows two men, Luke and Avery, and how one event impacts these two people’s very different lives. Ryan Gosling broods as Luke, a motorcycle driver, who tours around the country performing stunts. Luke is sincere, even if his life is not put all together nicely. Eva Mendes plays opposite Gosling, and the two share an awkward, yet brilliant chemistry. They do belong together, but circumstances make having a relationship difficult for them. Bradley Cooper turns in a subtle and excellent performance as Avery, a rookie cop trying to make a difference in his small town of Schenectady, NY. He’s married with a kid. He’s also dealing with the consequences of said impactful event, which I won’t elaborate on. Once we get to know these two men, the story shifts into something quite extraordinary and heartbreaking.
I was very happy when I heard that Ryan Gosling was teaming up again with his Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance. CIanfrance is one of the best new filmmakers in Hollywood. He proved that with Blue Valentine, and he proved it once again with this movie. Everything about The Place Beyond the Pines is beautiful, from the direction and cinematography to the arresting musical score to the characters and narrative’s structure. It doesn’t seem like it on the surface, but it’s an ambitious movie and manages to succeed in almost everything it means to accomplish.
It’s not just another crime drama, revolving around family. It’s more than that; it’s about no matter how hard you try you can’t escape the past. The past and your actions are these ever-living things, and it’s up to you whether you honor or shun it. I love how the narrative is structured around that concept and how it eventually all comes together. However, I did find the last part to be a little too awkward, and it didn’t transition well into the rest of the story. Yet, breakout actor Dane DeHaan saves it from taking down a great movie. His screen presence kept me captivated, and he made that last part of the film—which many would consider cutting down since it’s a 140 minute film—vital and meaningful to the narrative.
As mentioned, DeHaan wasn’t the only one to turn in a great performance. Cooper continues to prove himself worthy of the Academy Award nominated actor with this role. As always, Ryan Gosling is mesmerizing and truly gives a fascinating performance as Luke. The supporting cast, which includes Mendes, Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta, Emory Cohen and one of my new favorite actors Ben Mendelsohn, all bring life to their characters.
The Place Beyond the Pines is the best movie of the year. It’s a must-see drama that appeals to all types of audiences. It’s an incredible story about family, the past and how our actions can affect more than just our lives. It’s beautifully filmed, wonderfully performed and completely memorable.
The Place Beyond the Pines is now playing in select theaters. It opens nationwide on April 12th.