Dark is easily the best word that can describe what this film is. Dark does not mean bad, it just does not mean you will leave the theater giggling and trying to figure out where you want to go eat. Dark means you are going to think, reflect, and go back to it a lot after seeing it. That means the film worked and while you may on the outside say it was bad, something resonated with you and struck a chord. Dark is not bad at all.
The Place Beyond the Pines is a drama carrying three different stories that are not really different at all, they just don’t take place in the same situation. Ryan Gosling is the first major player we come in contact with. His name is Luke and he is a motorcycle stunt driver that after learning of his newborn son begins to rob banks as a way to get more money to his family. This act of bank robbing makes him collide with up and coming cop, Avery (played by Bradley Cooper), who then starts a chain of events both in Avery’s life as well as the life of his family, mainly his son.
As a avid fan of story, I found this film to be a wonderful exercise in weaving together stories and making everything tie together. There is something really cool about that, or maybe it is just me. When I see a story like that, weaving and threading together, it gives the appearance of a life greater than our own and the appearance that lives can be connected to make this grand picture story. That idea is probably what wowed me about this film that even though it wasn’t a happy tale, it still was grand and had scale that made it something memorable.
Each character had its own degree of interesting. Gosling carried that mysterious aura similar to his character in Drive. He was a man who while not by appearances cared, wanted to provide for his son and Romina (played by Eva Mendes). I felt some pity for him because he was tortured character who had strayed from the path and missed being a full influence on his son and you could tell him struggled with that.
Cooper reminded me a lot of Exley (played by Guy Pearce) from L.A. Confidential. He was, intelligence-wise, above the rest of the force and while he wanted a little of their respect, he also wanted to be above them and be in his rightful place. While Exley would end of teaming up and having a partner in the end, Cooper was alone. His character was the most torn down and someone who was tortured, just differently than Gosling. He was haunted by his fame and ended up becoming a slimy cop and politician.
None of the characters really stood out above the rest in my mind but that was fine. The star was the story and the directing work of Derek Cianfrance. This is Cianfrance’s second feature (following Blue Valentine) and judging from both of his films it seems like this somber, dark theme is a recurring one. But at the same time, he knows how to engage in the story and his style in directing was one that I enjoyed watching a lot. It was very subtle at times whether it was having Gosling enter with a medium shot of his back walking to a circus tent and then later on his son (played by Dane DeHaan) after learning more about his estranged dad, entered school with the same shot, mimicking him.
The Place Beyond the Pines is dark and not for everyone. But if you love story and want to see easily the most well done film I’ve seen so far this year then go. It is one that will make you reflect and is deeper than just one viewing. You may not relate to the characters but their silent pain may be something you can relate to. Dark isn’t bad, its just a challenge.