Place Beyond the Pines, The

Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines” is his third feature, following the never-distributed “Brother Tied” and the well received, “Blue Valentine.”


It’s without a doubt Cianfrance’s most ambitious picture to date. Spanning generations, the narrative consists of a triptych of emotional tales, aiming to explore the bonds that tie fathers and sons.

Unfortunately, ambition is not enough and the film is severely flawed. The three stories get weaker and weaker, leaving the impression that the subject might have been more suitable for a mini-series or a novel rather than a single feature.

After the first hour or so, the movie begins to lose his dramatic momentum and energy. With an excessive running time, the picture overextends its welcome by at least half an hour.

But despite structural and dramatic problems, the film as a whole cannot be easily dismissed, and the first tale is quite good, largely due to the expert acting of the two leads.

“Place Beyond the Pines” offers strong roles for two appealing actors who continue to develop, Ryan Gosling (in his second teaming with director Cianfrance after “Blue Valentine”) and Bradley Cooper, last seen in the Oscar-nominated “The Silver Linings Playbook,” and quickly becoming a major player whose range goes beyond broad comedies such as “The Hangover” series.

Gosling, sporting blond hair and pumped-up body, plays Luke, a motorcycle stunt performer who travels with the carnival from town to town. While passing through Schenectady in Upstate New York, he tries to reconnect with his former lover, Romina (the ever-sexy Eva Mendes), only to learn that in his absence she has given birth to a son named Jason.

Luke decides to give up life on the road and settle down so that he can provide for his newly-found family. To that extent, he takes a routine job as a car mechanic, less exciting but also less risky than the position he held before.

Taking notice of Luke’s diverse ambitions and skills, his employer, Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), proposes a partnership in a dubious string of bank robberies, which brings him face to face with Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a rookie cop.

The two men share some similarities in common. Avery, who operates in a troubled police department ruled by the menacing and corrupt detective Deluca (Ray Liotta, well cast), is also struggling to balance his professional duties with his family life.
Avery is married to Jennifer (Rose Byrne, still best known for the TV series, “Damages,” starring Glenn Close) and their infant son AJ.

Avery’s series of confrontations with Luke have long lasting

effects, leading to reverberations into the next generation. Indeed, in the ensuing chapters, which are weaker in several significant ways, we get a chronicle of the two sons, Jason (Dane DeHaan) and AJ (Emory Cohen), who must deal with their fateful heritage.

The whole movie suffers from an overly serious, earnest tone that lacks irony and subtlety. And it doesn’t help that each chapter in the saga becomes progressively less interesting, less engaging, and less poignant.

Cianfrance acquits himself more honorably as a director than as a scribe: The stories are only loosely connected and the writing sharply uneven, with plenty of dull moments. Aiming to offer commentary on such issues as sinful father and dependent sons, justice and morality, family fatalism, the film is somber all right but lacks gravity, failing to provide significant observations or insight about any of these matters.

Overall, this is a step down after the highlight of “Blue Valentine” for director Derek Cianfrance. His feature debut, “Brother Tied,” which world-premiered at the Sundance Film Fest (I had reviewed it for “Variety”) had never received theatrical distribution in the U.S.

Brother Tied:
Blue Valentine:

Focus Features Release.
Focus Features and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment presentation of an Electric City Entertainment production in association with Verisimilitude.
Produced by Sidney Kimmel.
Executive Producers, Jim Tauber, Matt Berenson, Bruce Toll.
Produced by Jamie Patricof, Lynette Howell, Alex Orlovsky.
Co-Producer, Carrie Fix.
Directed by Derek Cianfrance.
Screenplay by Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder, based on the story by Cianfrance and Ben Coccio.
Production Designer, Inbal Weinberg.
Edited by Jim Helton and Ron Patane.
Director of Photography, Sean Bobbitt.
Music by Mike Patton.
Costume Designer, Erin Benach.
Casting by Cindy Tolan.