It’s clear from the slick intro that the film won’t tread usual territory. Ryan Gosling‘s slow walk to a cage ride intersperses black titling. Moments after he does what he does best he’s confronted with Eva Mendes and soon learns that he has a son. He quits his job to support his family despite the very real obstacles in his way (namely the fact Mendes has a supportive other half). When the auto-repair job he finds (with Robin, played by the impressive Ben Mendelsohn) isn’t quite enough the pair turn to bank robbery, with Mendelsohn supplying the brains and Gosling supplying the bike-weilding brawn.
Comparisons to Drive are inevitable but The Place Beyond the Pines is an entirely different beast. Yes, he may wear a stylish coat, and yes, the film may be enthused with a scintillating bass. But this is not a Nicholas Winding Refn film.
Neither should it be assumed that this is Gosling’s film. Bradley Cooper puts in a performance that could well over shadow that of his fellow stars. Playing a rookie cop, Cooper must fight his own battles, namely between his conscience and the corruption of the force around him. He’s a flawed hero and is all the more compelling for it. The yin to his yang is Ray Liota who revels in the ‘perks’ authority brings with it.
Lots of words can be banded around when describing The Place Beyond the Pines and the film explores different aspects of the same themes. It’s a film about consequences, corruption and the guilt that a life filled with the former entails.
For all of its seriousness, The Place Beyond the Pines does indulge in occasional humour, Gosling’s last robbery being a particular highlight. Though far from a comedy, this injects a humanity into a film that otherwise often dabbles in bleak realities.
Prepare for a few shocks (particularly one involving a crib donation) amidst the visually stunning scenes. The Place Beyond the Pines is all encompassing; it explores flaws, addictions, needs and, ultimately, the power of love. Sometimes the film feels like a series of short films rather than one coherent story but this is in no way a flaw. In fact, this is to the director’s merit. It’s difficult to say whose story is the most arresting. Derek Cianfrance‘s direction cuts away any excess to create an absorbing film.