Unfolding in a seemingly idyllic neighbourhood in upstate New York, Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines follows the story of Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle stuntman who resorts to robbery in order to provide for his son and ex-lover Romina (Eva Mendes), with the narrative little by little progressing into an intricate mapping of how Luke’s recklessness, and an altercation with rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), affect their own lives and those of their families’.
With a run-time of two hours and twenty minutes, The Place Beyond the Pines is an ambitious crime-drama that spans across multiple generations and an even greater number of lives with a level of intricacy that, while poignant, ultimately leaves a lot to be desired in momentum by its finale. Splitting neatly into thirds, the narrative’s initial fast pacing is derailed into a slow amble in the wake of Luke’s actions; with sub-plots concerning Avery Cross’ experiences with police corruption and his own career ambitions taking centre stage within the second act.
Alongside the introduction of these sub-plots, the film begins to show an increasing dependence upon already recognisable character tropes—such as Ray Liotta’s casting as the corrupt officer Deluca—which, while being executed effectively, seem to strip away the initial feeling that Place Beyond the Pines could indeed be a not-so-distant relative of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011). Despite this, the narrative remains compelling through the consistently detailed way in which the characters’ actions and consequent reactions are woven together; creating a sense of cohesiveness that continues into the film’s concluding segment.
Occurring approximately fifteen years later, and focusing primarily on the burgeoning relationship between Jason (Dane DeHaan) and AJ (Emory Cohen)—the sons of Luke and Avery respectively—Place Beyond the Pines enters its final shift in both narrative scope and tone. The growth and evolution of their friendship runs parallel with the tension of the plot, whilst simultaneously ushering a layer of dramatic irony that’s almost painful to watch in parts (in the best way possible).
The actual closing sequence of Place Beyond the Pines is one which frequently comes across as anti-climactic in all its poignancy; with an open ending that seems morose and nonchalant all at once. If anything, the consistency with which the narrative slows down across all three sections welcomes this style of ending wholeheartedly, despite the obvious juxtaposition with the intensity of the first act.
As far as I’m concerned, The Place Beyond the Pines does a marvellous job of showcasing the immediate and lasting effects of traumatic experiences, the grieving process, and the importance of closure within the individual and interpersonal circumstances. The intricacy of the main narrative arc and the interconnection of its various sub-plots allow for a vibrant microcosm of how one person’s actions can ripple across multiple generations.