Tess Motherway takes another look at The Place Beyond the Pines
Director Derek Cianfrance, who is possibly best known for indie favourite Blue Valentine, teams up again with Ryan Gosling to produce a study of masculinity and fatherhood while challenging notions of what it means to be a ‘real man’.
Luke Glanston (Gosling) is a ‘carnie’ in every sense of the word, a nomadic motorcycle stunt man, replete with tattoos and a broody demeanor. On a stop off in the strangely wild suburb of Schenectady, New York, Glanston becomes reconnected with a past lover, Romina (Eva Mendes), discovering that he has a one year old son by her. This tentative storyline begins a triptych that explores fatherhood through a series of events riddled with misfortune and moral dilemma, emphasising the effects a father’s choice, especially that of police officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), has on their son and ultimately on their relationship. In turn, Schenectady becomes a suburban wild west that harbours outlaws – a place where men take advantage of their positions of power and where heroes are created overnight.
Cianfrance is a director who is motivated by the craft of acting, which is clearly evident in both Gosling and Cooper’s performances, the camera lingering deftly on each scene to capture the ‘realness’ that Cianfrance pursues. Eva Mendes plays the role of the struggling single mother well and makes the most of her sometimes sporadic screen time, despite the exaggerated make-up that drastically ages her, but confusingly, not her peers.
The film, clocking in at 140 minutes, feels much too long and the triptych structure of the film only plays out to varying degrees of success. That said, the strongest moments of moral dilemma, reserved for the most part for the character of Avery Cross, are superb, and the tension between father and son AJ (Emory Cohen) is palpable.