‘The Place Beyond the Pines,’ is visually captivating

Josh Carlton

The spellbinding “The Place Beyond the Pines,” marks the second collaboration between actor/director duo Ryan Gosling and Derek Cianfrance. “Pines” follows up the gut-wrenching “Blue Valentine” which showcased Gosling as a more than capable leading man, and Cianfrance as a director with a vision. The pair once again show that they play well together, this time crafting a much more satisfying piece of cinema.

The film starts with stunt biker, Luke Glanton (Gosling), as he discovers that a fling with Romina, (Eva Mendes) produced an infant son, Jason. Luke decides that he will start robbing banks with Robin (the reliable Ben Mendelsohn) to make ends meet and prove himself as a father. That is until he collides with Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a bright-eyed rookie cop with a baby boy of his own. From then on, the narrative takes a turn and splits into a triptych structure. I’ll let those who want to check it out see the unorthodox plot play out for itself.

The strong visuals and a wonderful score only add to the ambitious story. Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt captures the essence of Schenectady, N.Y. in ways that evoke wonder and at times woe. To go along with that, multi-instrumentalist Mike Patton constructs a soaring score, leaving us simultaneously floored and anxious. What really rounds the film out though, are the performances.

Any film with this much weight, hinges entirely on the characters being as believable as flesh and blood. Cianfrance has a strong eye for detail and proves he can get great performances, as well. Gosling and Cooper nail it as fathers struggling to come to terms with themselves. Eva Mendes shows range as a woman barely hanging on, fighting to rise above her situation. Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids), while not given much to do, makes the most of her role as Avery’s wife, showing us more than just a passive companion.

Later on we meet the older versions of Luke and Avery’s sons, Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) as Jason, and A.J. played by newcomer Emory Cohen. Cohen plays the spoiled kid with daddy issues effectively, but it’s DeHaan who cuts deep as a lost kid looking for answers. His painful eyes are enough to have you grabbing for tissues. The father/son complications are an important part of the story. These young leads bring it full circle and then some.

Where “Valentine” focused on it’s struggling lovers, “Pines’” script, written by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder, tries to tackle issues that run deeper; touching on sin, sacrifice, and guilt. While the two and a half hour run time can’t fit everything it tries to say in one film, it does the best it can only occasionally stumbling. But when it glows, it shines.

Put this film at the top of your spring break movie list. It’s rare that we get treated to an award caliber film this early in the year. The raw power and emotionally charged characters are sure to stick with you, but make no mistake, “The Place Beyond the Pines” will break your heart.