Recently premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, The Place Beyond the Pines is a stunning film about loss, regret, revenge and the long-term implications of trying to do the right thing, the wrong way.
Divided into three interweaving stories, Ryan Gosling (Drive) headlines as Luke, a daredevil stunt motorcyclist from upstate New York who is talked into a regrettable deed after being dealt some revelatory news by an old flame (Eva Mendes; Holy Motors). Bradley Cooper (Limitless), in the film’s subplot, plays a city cop who appears to have his life in order, but has a different agenda behind closed doors. Lastly, there’s Dane Dehaan (Chronicle) as the troubled young teen Jason, whose alienation is edging him toward a life of crime. It’d be a disservice to tell you any more than that going in, as Pines is an experience best discovered if it’s to be truly savoured; a film so thematically and dramatically rich, soulful and suspenseful, it carves itself into your consciousness and refuses to leave.
After helming 2010’s beautifully raw relationship drama Blue Valentine (also starring Gosling), writer/director Derek Cianfrance hasn’t lost his knack for sobering authenticity. He creates moments rather than scenes, capturing each exchange in a way that feels caught rather than calculated. His actors seamlessly meld into characters, their long pauses just as telling as their outbursts, while his choice of locations – such as the pine forest alluded to in the title — hold a sense of significance that reveals itself over time. It’s all underpinned by an impending sense of doom that is evoked by Mike Patton’s chilling score and Sean Bobbitt’s claustrophobic camerawork.
Gosling, with magnetic intensity, evokes the inciderary nature of his character between the lines as effortlessly as he does during them. Praise must also go to Bradley Cooper, who arguably delivers the best performance of his career in one of the more challenging roles I’ve seen this year. DeHaan, too, holds his own amongst the big names, his pent-up rage intensifying with each scene, ready to explode at any minute.
The applause and standing ovation at the TIFF premiere lasted for minutes, and for good reason; The Place Beyond the Pines is truly an exceptional film, boasting honest characters, terrific performances, and a daring, rule-breaking story that will leave you broken, breathless and gasping for more.