Ladies will be glad to hear that two of Hollywood’s sexiest actors, Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, are part of the same cast for the latest Derek Cianfrance movie. However, fans of Blue Valentine (which also featured Ryan Gosling in what many consider to be his breakthrough role) will find a totally different kind of film. This time, the movie is not about romance and lost illusions, but about family drama, mistakes, corruption and loss.
The movie portrays the lives of Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a motorbike stunt-driver of a traveling carnival who finds out that he has a son, and Avery Cross, a cop who plays the role of the hero and good guy but is in reality facing familiar problems with his son and wife. These two men will eventually have to cross paths in rather extreme circumstances: a bleached head and covered-in-tattoos Gosling, is forced to rob banks and risk his life to support and economically sustain both his son and the mother of the child, Romina (Eva Mendes). It is Cross who has to try to stop him and as such catch the “bad guy”. No spoilers here, but after many years (and a series of coincidences) Glanton’s and Cross’ sons will meet and will have to pay the consequences of their parent’s actions.
Sometimes Gosling can seem a bit laconic showing minimal expressivity, but this is fitting for the character he inhabits and shows the emotion turmoil that runs through him. The chemistry between him and Eva Mendes’ Romina is undeniable and works well. Mendes performs very well in her role and Cooper shows the same great quality he displayed in Silver Lining’s Playbook.
This movie does not allow you to come to the easy conclusion that there is a clear bad guy (Gosling) and a clear good guy (Cooper). The line between good and bad becomes inevitably blurred as a desperate father does not seem to find any option other than robbing banks to assume responsibility for his child, whilst a cop who initially appears to want to fight institutional police corruption, lies and becomes everything he initially hates to gain a higher position in society.
The scenery and the music fit perfectly together. Mike Patton’s excellent composition particularly stands out along with the melancholic The Wolves (Act I and II) by Bon Iver. These help to convey the image of a place “beyond the pines” where events echo through the years.
Unfortunately for some, this is not a movie about good looking boys acting “badass” and living the romance of a life time, but this reviewer hopes that they will nonetheless appreciate this movie which explores the often problematic dynamics of the relationship between father and son and their consequences. There is, however, something missing from this movie which stops it from being great. It might be the almost complete unreality of the story which makes the experience of watching it a bit surreal, or it is maybe the highly stereotyped characters (the super tattooed stunt-driver, the desperate but at the same time strong woman left with a child) and the sometimes overfilled plot, that make this movie open for discussion. Overall though, in spite of these flaws, The Place Beyond the Pines is definitely recommended.