April 29, 2013

Review: Fathers and Sons Go to 'The Place Beyond the Pines'

"If you ride like lighting, you're going to crash like thunder."

The Place Beyond the Pines is a sprawling story about the legacy of sins by fathers and the consequences on their sons. It's full of deep, layered themes and characters with an unconventional narrative and bold story choices. However, due to its ambition, it's sometimes messy and overlong while remaining imminently watchable in its brooding earnestness with some fine performances all around.

Director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) has crafted a family story spanning decades wrapped in a crime thriller and police procedural. There are unusual twists and turns based on character developments and intriguing familial dynamics. The way the film shifts focus and protagonists would be far more jarring and disruptive in the hands of a less skilled filmmaker. Cianfrance plays with our expectations and manages interesting, nuanced performances well as he takes plenty of risks on screen.

Despite a problematic third act set years later with shifting protagonists, the film offers so much universal truth and mostly pulls off its intentions. We follow three separate stories, spanning over fifteen years. Ryan Gosling plays a motorcycle driver who turns to bank robbing when he finds out he's fathered a child and desperately wants to support his new family and make up for his own father's sins. Next, we follow Bradley Cooper, a father and cop turned politician who gets entangled into police corruption after a violent incident. The third act follows Gosling and Cooper's sons as teenagers dealing with the consequences of their father's actions.

The film proves to be a worthy, notable follow up and sophomore effort from Cianfrance who clearly shows his limitless visual and storytelling talent in addition to his ability to get fine performances from actors. Its themes and ideas are so audacious, but don't quite hit a home run. Nonetheless, The Place Beyond the Pines proves to be an admirable, gripping family drama about fatherhood.

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