The other night I watched the movie “The Place Beyond the Pines” directed by Derek Cianfrance starring Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, and Bradley Cooper.
The movie is depicted in three different acts. The first two acts cover the same generation but focus on two different characters. The third act fast-forwards 15 years, examining the fate of their lives.
This lets the viewers see the consequences and results of actions. More specifically in most movies death is portrayed as something viewers quickly get over, usually in the matter of seconds. But this entire movie is based around the domino effects of one life being extinguished.
The movie accurately portrayed the agony of death, even if the person is seen as a menace to society. Life is a gift and one person being robbed of theirs has thousands of ripple effects that are impossible to calculate.
In the same vein, taking a life (even accidentally) is not portrayed in this movie as something one can simply go and have a beer after. The psychological trauma is portrayed well by the actor even 15 years later.
Another way to splice the movie is in two, with the famous line in the move as a description of the two halves. “If you ride like lightning, you’re gonna crash like thunder.” The first half is lightning, the second half is the thunder, the after effects.
The strong bond between fathers and sons is powerfully depicted. The director did something with the relationship between Ryan Gosling, his son, and Eva Mendes that is hard to put into words. The photograph that resurfaces in the movie is laden with emotion. When viewers experience the same emotion as the actors have when a picture is displayed, you know the director has done their job well.
Viewers should pay attention to the work of Gosling and Cooper who offer differing views of masculinity with weakness. Gosling is cool, self-possessed, and has a romantic view of himself. But there are also hints of childlike vulnerability shown when he finds out he has a son, and when he raises his voice to almost a shriek in the middle of stickups.
Cooper’s outward life looks like he has it all put together. He is a hero-cop with a nice family. But inwardly there is turmoil and confusion. His marriage is on the rocks and his father is always pressuring him towards politics. As one reviewer says, “the sins of these two complicated fathers are visited on their sons.”
The director successfully laced the same theme music from father to son which created this unconscious pairing. The song is beautiful, dark, and slow. The scene in the third act gave me chills when Robin tells Luke’s son “You’re calling him back!” and it cuts to him riding like his dad with Snow Angel playing in the background.
The movie is not without its faults. It goes on a little too long and there is some overacting towards the end.
But it has a way of hitting a thoughtful emotive sweet spot, and that should be celebrated.