EYEWEAR'S FILM CRITIC JAMES A. GEORGE ON A GREAT AMERICAN FILM
|Ryan's regrettable tattoos|
Derek Cianfrance blew everyone away with Blue Valentine in 2010. A raw and painfully accurate story of a couple’s love and love loss. Despite shattering me, it was my favourite film of the year. The Place Beyond The Pines is his follow up, this time exploring a wider spectrum of relationships within family, particularly fathers and sons and the legacy they can leave.
The lengthy opening shot channels the American master directors, Scorsese, Welles & P. T. Anderson, informing us that what we are about to see is of such calibre; an endeavour as cocky as it is noble. The film is an emotional epic triptych that doesn’t buckle under its own weight, if sometimes doing all but signpost its own structure. The film fizzles out a little towards the end, but our interest is already with the characters, we want to know the outcome even if we have spotted it a mile away. This is testament to the remarkably harsh and honest emotions and humans living before us – something that can be said about only too few film characters.
Filmmakers sometimes forget that humans do stupid things. Things that don’t make sense; people don’t always react to situation A with situation B, in troubled times quite often situation X is the route taken – not grounded in logic but something truer. Ryan Gosling plays Luke. We first see Luke playing with a butterfly knife held out by his washboard abs, covered in regrettable tattoos. The man is impulsive and reckless, his masculinity two-dimensional. Since the array of characters is as vast as the plot, visual clues like these aren’t wasted. With no hyperbole, every performance is stellar, Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, too many to name. Even Rose Byrne’s brief screen time presents a capsule of a living, breathing life.
Sean Bobbitt’s work as cinematographer here is as astute as ever, the mood of the image marrying the story perfectly. As does Mike Patton’s brooding soundtrack, foreboding and beautiful, woven into some moments of exquisite editing.
The Place Beyond The Pines isn’t perfect, it meanders at points, and the first two thirds of the film outshine the rest, but moments of greatness are definitely throughout. This film is for the patient and those looking for an engaging and soulful experience will not be disappointed. And while the critic in me found the last moments of the film quite hammering, I – for the first time in a cinema for almost three years – all at once felt my belly tighten, my shoulders jolt and my cheeks dampen with tears.