Derek Cianfrance’s debut feature Blue Valentine is one of the most emotionally devastating portrayals of love, family and everything else that we as human being seek to achieve in our lives. It is a film like no other romance in existence, because it accomplishes something quite extraordinary in its unorthodox structuring – a relationship is built, whilst at the same time it is destroyed. On viewing after viewing, the film’s existential power and heart only grows stronger for me, and I would happily proclaim it to be the quintessential love story of the century thus far.
Although the scope of The Place Beyond the Pines is much more advanced and ambitious, the two films are not that dissimilar. Blue Valentine analyses the rise and fall of a relationship in the same way that this depicts the lifespan of two families spread over three invisible segments. The first segment which introduces Ryan Gosling’s Motorcycle rider Luke Glanton seeking to provide for his family by robbing banks is no doubt where The Place Beyond the Pines is at its most lethal and devastating. Luke is a tough-as-nails figure, he is covered in tattoos from head to toes and he is dangerous, but he’s also a caring, passionate human being. He loves his Motorcycle and he loves his young son – at the very moment Gosling screams at the top of his lungs as he holds a bank hostage, I thought I was witnessing a masterpiece unfolding before my eyes. The power, the tension and the fluidity of the piece is astonishing, but it all soon goes downhill from there.
Without giving too much away, the film then transitions to Bradley Cooper’s police officer character. Cooper’s portrayal is of noteworthy importance to the act and his work here (as in Silver Linings Playbook) truly cements him as a talent to look out for, but the flow is completely shattered. Where Gosling’s act depicts scenes of raw power, Cooper’s sequences are a jilted mess. Although the tale is far from boring, it’s very frustrating and pales massively in comparison with the fear that the first scenes gave the film. As Cooper’s story unfolds in ordinary fashion and the title cards displaying “15 Years Later” appear, the story adapts to a new tale. This segment and the final one of the film is set around two young teenagers, one of whom is Cooper’s son. By this time I had lost all faith in the film and the contrivance and the predictability persist throughout to make it quite a chore to handle, the dialogue gets weaker and the irritating performance from Emory Cohen are the most suffering elements of the piece.
The Place Beyond The Pines is a film of immense ambition and strategic film making, but ultimately it’s a disjointed and destitute study of life that I hope I find some greater meaning in on another viewing as opposed to finding even more flaws.