The Place Beyond the Pines Review: A Surprisingly Effective Small-Town Odyssey

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The Place Beyond the Pines pretty much flawlessly blends the operatic and the indie to create a unique story that is both intimately touching and grandly satisfying.

The story seemingly follows Luke (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle stunt driver who finds out he is a father and wants to take care of his son. But there is a lot more going on here, and to ruin the surprise would be a disservice to the film and the artist in charge, Derek Cianfrance.

What I will say is that the story has a very clear beginning, middle, and end that takes you through the lives of people who you won’t always agree with.

Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) is the standout character of the film, with Cooper showing yet another unexplored dimension of his capabilities as an actor. Avery is a cop who stumbles too far into Luke and his child’s mother’s (Eva Mendes) lives. His guilt weighs on him as he deals with moral ambiguity and a corrupt system around him. Actions come back to haunt him in startling ways as he tries to keep his life together. Cooper sells every emotion effortlessly.

But he is just a part of an ensemble who mostly bring their A-game.

The story is what drives this film though. This is a big film disguised as a small one. It is also the most though provoking film of the year yet, bringing themes such as family and legacy to the table in a way we have not seen for some time.

Cianfrance seems much more in control of the plot here than in the well acted mess Blue Valentine. This is a director who knows how to get the most out of his actors and is still learning how to craft his ambitions. And this is an ambitious film. Perhaps too ambitious for its own, slightly mundane material.

Still though, The Place Beyond the Pines is proof that Cianfrance knows how to do more than a bad break up. The grande nature of the story and how it is told is beautiful. That alone makes this the best film of 2013 so far. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty


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