Every son lives in the legacy of his father. That is the central theme of David Cianfrance’s new film “The Place Beyond the Pines”. His third feature is a follow-up to his indie breakout hit, “Blue Valentine”, and shows true growth as a filmmaker as he tackles on a film that can truly be described as an epic. He films the wooded rural area of Schenectady, New York like the way George Stevens filmed the sprawling Texas landscape in “Giant”.
The film is told in three acts as it follows three different story arcs. The first is of Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) discovering that he has a one year old child and his desperate attempts to care for that child. The second act follows Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) as an idealistic new cop with a one year old child with both his wife and district attorney father trying to convince him of finding another profession. And the third act follows the sons of those two men. To be truthful, the less that is told about each storyline the better the film is. It unfolds like a sweeping drama going from one arc to another seamlessly.
Cianfrance uses his darken hues to highlight the pent up frustration as the setting becomes another character. The grayness of the area represents the moral gray area of the situation as Cianfrance asks the question whether or not there is a difference between what Luke would do for his son and what Cross would do for his son in impressionistic beauty. Each shot is deliberate in what he wants to show his audience. He suggests, arouses and goes forward leading to moral ambiguity.
And how he tells the story with his pacing and twists makes him a true original voice in contemporary American cinema. “Blue Valentine” did not impress me as much as it did other people because of its muddled themes and slow pacing. But, this film grabs onto that central theme and takes it for a ride. Each of the protagonists is defined by his father’s legacy and each minute of the film builds and develop this idea.
It is funny that I compared this film to “Giant” which stars James Dean as Ryan Gosling fully becomes a James Dean-esque figure in this film. Like Dean in “Rebel without a Cause”, Gosling is a low-key speaker but is filled with so much internal rage. Bradley Cooper on the other hand gives the antithesis of that performance of playing a meek idealist who slowly becomes cynical. The way they juxtapose each other furthers enhances then sprawling themes of the film.
Each arc is an ambitious, hypnotic ride with Cianfrance’s thunderous, thumping score. Mixing family drama with crime urban thriller, David Cianfrance cements his status as an up and coming filmmaker with hubristic ambitions, putting him up there with Jeff Nichols and Nicolas Winding Refn. This type of craft and creativity has become few and far between as of late this time of year, making “The Place Beyond the Pines” easily the best film of the year so far.
The Place Beyond The Pines hits UK Cinemas on April 12th.
This article was first posted on April 1, 2013