From the opening scene of The Place Beyond The Pines, when Luke (Ryan Gosling – Drive / Crazy Stupid Love) bares his heavily tattooed torso on screen, you know you have entered the ‘land of the lowie’ - these are obviously jail tatts. Luke is on his way to perform dare-devil stunts on his motorbike in the carnival ‘globe of death,’ somewhere in upstate New York. If you’ve ever been to a fairground and seen one of those cages, you will know how dangerous and at the same time, how exciting, the spectacle is. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the risky, transient life Luke has led up to this point.

When he hooks up with an ex-one night stand, Romina (Eva Mendes – Hitch / The Other Guys), he finds out that he has a son, conceived when he was with her the year before. Struck by a sudden sense of familial duty, Luke decides to take on the responsibility of looking after his son, so he finds a place to stay on the outskirts of town. His landlord is a somewhat strange motor mechanic, Robin (Ben Mendelsohn – The Dark Night Rises / Killing Them Softly), with whom he forges a bond… and a plan to rob local banks. The scenes between these two characters are enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck because you just know that, sooner or later, things ain’t gonna turn out right. After a heist goes awry, rookie cop Avery (Bradley Cooper – Limitless / Silver Linings Playbook) enters the scene and, lo and behold, you have a drama that will keep you riveted for the next two hours.

Constructed in three parts like a good novel, this is a finely scripted piece by director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) and his co-writers, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder. There is a lot happening in this film - the story spans a period of fifteen years, during which time the dramatic events unfold to envelop the next generation, the sons of Luke and Avery. The two boys come into their own and deliver excellent performances that, like the leads, deserve acknowledgement, in particular Emery Cohen (New York, I Love You / Smash), playing Avery’s son, AJ. Supporting roles are all first-rate, too, especially Mendelsohn, and Ray Liotta (Goodfellas / Hannibal) and Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek / i Robot) as bent cops. Rose Byrne (Get Him To The Greek / I Give It A Year) is good but under utilized as Bradley Cooper’s long-suffering wife.

The Place Beyond the Pines (the translation of the indigenous name Schenectady, the film’s setting) is beautifully shot by Sean Bobbitt (Shame / Hunger), who used 35mm film and it shows - it gives the movie a warm and nostalgic look. The atmosphere is enhanced by Mike Patton’s original score and an eclectic mix of music from Arvo Part to Hall and Oates and Bruce Springsteen. This is a commendable look at parental commitment that will leave you contemplating the importance of a father’s role in their children’s upbringing, of both the good and the harm that can be done. It will also leave you wondering who will end up being nominated for next year’s Best Actor Oscars - both Gosling and Cooper are awesome.


Previewed at Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on April 29 2013


Ryan Gosling
Bradley Cooper
Eva Mendes
Ray Liotta

Derek Cianfrance

Derek Cianfrance
Ben Coccio
Darius Marder



140 minutes

May 9, 2013
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) on IMDb
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