The Place Beyond the Pines is a film directed by Derek Cianfrance, with a screenplay written by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder.  The film follows three separate but intertwined storylines that span a period of nearly twenty years.  The first third of the film is concerned with Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a popular motorcycle stuntman performing at local fairs, and his discovery of a son he fathered with ex-lover Romina (Eva Mendes).  The second third of the film centers on local police hero Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a man riddled with guilt, thrown into the world of police corruption.  The final third of the film involves Avery’s son AJ (Emory Cohen) and his newfound friendship with a boy at his school named Jason (Dane DeHaan).  Cianfrance’s epic triptych explores themes of family, fate, and everything in between.

The Place Beyond the Pines came out in March 2013, and therefore, it was skipped over for a lot of critical acclaim because of the timing of its release; however, this factor has zero weight in my assessment of the year in film, and I truly enjoyed it enough to include it on my year-end list.  The movie sees the reuniting of Cianfrance and Ryan Gosling, as the two collaborated on Blue Valentine in 2010.  I never really bought into Cianfrance’s vision in Blue Valentine, but I was pleasantly surprised by his effort in 2013 with The Place Beyond the Pines.  Even though at times it seemed a bit long, I was mesmerized by the three-part storyline and the impeccable acting performances throughout.

Speaking of those acting performances, Ryan Gosling did a fantastic job in the first third of the film.  I am one of the few people I know that is fully on board with Gosling’s independent roles outside of mainstream Hollywood, and in this movie, he further illuminates why I appreciate his dramatic work.  Even though at times he is unbelievably docile, there are other moments in the film where he breaks out of that shell and evokes a surplus of real emotions.  This is highlighted in the scene where he fights Romina’s new boyfriend and in the bank-robbing scenes.  Those bank-robbing sequences were so incredibly well crafted by Cianfrance, and it works even more flawlessly because of Gosling.

TPBTP3For the rest of the film, Bradley Cooper leads the show with a performance that, in my opinion, rivals his Oscar-nominated roles in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013).  Even though his characters in those two recent films were polar opposite in nature, I felt I could still tell Bradley Cooper was playing the part in both of them; however, in this film, Cooper fully releases himself into the complexities of Avery Cross, and throughout the film, I completely forgot it was Bradley Cooper.  I credit this to his careful construction of his character on the screen, and his hard work pays off because his performance is the highlight of the film.

TPBTP 1Aside from these two heavyweights of cinema, the film features two startling supporting performances from Dane DeHaan as Jason and Emory Cohen as AJ Cross.  The two characters are introduced in the final third of the movie, and when they meet, the entire film comes full circle in the most incredible way.  The mysterious intertwining of Jason and AJ’s lives is elucidated as each character’s development builds off of the other’s, and this storyline proved to be a lot more riveting than it first seemed.  All in all, this film is well designed and well acted, and it is most definitely worth a viewing if you are in the mood for an alluring crime drama.  The Place Beyond the Pines is rated R for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference.

The Place Beyond the Pines trailer:

Academy Award nominations for The Place Beyond the Pines:


Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

15. Dallas Buyers Club


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