The Place Beyond the Pines

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Derek Cianfrance

Starring

Bradley Cooper Eva Mendes Ryan Gosling

Anticipation.

The Blue Valentine writer/director is back, and he’s brought a familiar face along for the ride.

Enjoyment.

Beautifully shot with commanding lead performances and stonking cameos from Ray Liotta and Ben Mendelsohn.

In Retrospect.

After two powerful but flawed features it’ll be interesting to see what Cianfrance does next.

Ryan Gosling puts the pedal to the metal (again) in this over-reaching melodrama from the director of Blue Valentine.

Coasting into view like Drive‘s sensitive, understated cousin, The Place Beyond The Pines sees Ryan Gosling tear up familiar terrain as a part-time stunt rider who turns to crime to protect a damsel in distress (Eva Mendes). This time, however, his natural habitat is not the asphalt dystopia of Los Angeles but idyllic upstate New York – specifically the city of Schenectady, named after a Mohawk word that loosely translates as ‘place beyond the pine plains’.

In a fluid opening tracking shot we’re guided through a busy carnival late at night by a mysterious male figure. The name Handsome Luke blares out over a tannoy as he strides into a packed marquee, the din of the crowd yielding to the synchronised squeal of motorcycle engines as he and two other bikers ceremoniously enter a ‘globe of death’. It’s a rousing introduction to Gosling’s enigmatic anti-hero and a brilliant piece of camerawork that’s mirrored to poignant effect in the film’s cathartic third act.

Luke rides like lightning and crashes like thunder, his reckless abandon dramatically altering not just the course of his life but the lives of those around him. With his oil-smudged apparel, bleached mop and maverick sprinkles of prison ink, Luke is the bad-boy antithesis of Pines’ other chief protagonist, clean-cut rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), whose entrance marks an abrupt shift in tone that will divide audiences.

Gosling’s previous film with writer/director Derek Cianfrance, coupled with the aforementioned echoes of Drive, places him front and centre here. Despite only turning up at halftime, however, it’s Cooper who steals the show, though in fairness he’s given a meatier role to play with. Arguably topping his performance in David O Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, it’s no wonder Cooper is fast becoming recognised as one of Hollywood’s brightest talents.

Where Cianfrance’s emotionally raw 2010 directorial debut Blue Valentine offered an intimate and uncompromisingly dim view on the natural life cycle of love, Pines is far grander in scope. Spanning several decades and multiple intersecting lives, it’s at once an ambitious, intelligent and occasionally brave film that shows how we are all connected and how even the most negative action can have a positive reaction. It’s a captivating message for the most part, but you can’t help feel there’s a leaner, more engaging film here.

Even if the end product doesn’t quite come together, though, you have to admire Cianfrance for attempting to weave together such an intricate and dense character study.

Published 11 Apr 2013

Tags: Derek Cianfrance Ryan Gosling

Anticipation.

The Blue Valentine writer/director is back, and he’s brought a familiar face along for the ride.

Enjoyment.

Beautifully shot with commanding lead performances and stonking cameos from Ray Liotta and Ben Mendelsohn.

In Retrospect.

After two powerful but flawed features it’ll be interesting to see what Cianfrance does next.

Read More

Ryan Gosling: ‘When I was a kid we lived with Elvis for a year’

By Adam Woodward

The Lost River director reflects on his childhood and ponders the myth of the American Dream.

Drive

By Matt Bochenski

Nicolas Winding Refn lets demons loose in the City of Angels with gut-wrenching results.

review

Watch the beautiful trailer for Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans

By Little White Lies

Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander play inadvertent adoptees in the Blue Valentine director’s latest.

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design