Film Review: The Place Beyond the Pines


Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stunt rider who discovers he has a young son with former girlfriend Romina (Eva Mendes). In order to provide for his son, he turns to robbing banks, but meets his match when he comes up against rookie cop Avery (Bradley Cooper). Despite only meeting fleetingly, their confrontation will have lasting consequences.

The Place Beyond the Pines tries something quite tricky. It attempts to create a large-scale story spanning over 15 years whilst trying to keep the focus very much on the characters. It examines the theme of legacy; how the actions of one person can have dramatic ramifications for others years later. It’s an ambitious film, but one that director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance handles admirably for the most part.

The film is a triptych of sorts, split into three distinct sections, each blending into the next. What happens in one section of the film has distinct consequences for what’s to come, and the writing neatly knits the various plot strands together. It could easily have got tied up in itself but it remains fluid and uncomplicated throughout.

It does suffer a little from pacing issues, however. The first third of the film, featuring Ryan Gosling’s bank robbing stunt rider, is (unsurprisingly given that description) the most interesting and exciting part of the film. After that the film slows and never really reaches the same level again. The final third with Avery’s son AJ is perhaps the weakest section, primarily because it asks us to invest in characters with whom we’ve had no previous involvement. It’s interesting to see how what’s gone before affects AJ and his friend but being introduced to two new characters so late on in the film is a big ask of the audience.

Performances are generally strong across the board. Mendes and Cooper are believable in their roles and Gosling plays yet another Drive-esque role as the quiet, sultry anti-hero. He may be becoming known as somewhat of a one trick pony but, to be honest, this works pretty perfectly for the role. There are also a number of strong auxilliary performances. Ray Liotta is excellent as Avery’s corrupt cop colleague, whilst Mahershala Ali is also strong as Kofi, Luke’s competition in his relationship with Romina. Dane DeHaan is also worthy of a mention as AJ’s clearly damaged friend; DeHaan is really establishing himself as a fine young actor.


The Place Beyond the Pines does require a certain amount of effort from its audience. The film methodically explores the characters and the world they’re in, never rushing or unnecessarily forcing its messages. It asks the viewer to be patient and actually think about the characters, their motivations and the consequences their actions have, which is exactly what good filmmaking should do.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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33 thoughts on “Film Review: The Place Beyond the Pines

  1. vinnieh says:

    I missed this in cinema, but reading this makes me want to view the film.

  2. I really loved this film. Happy to hear you agree. Gosling’s section was definitely the best. I love how Cianfrance attempts to make the audience invest in the sons through the fathers, really unique and respectable. Terrific write-up :).

  3. Ben H says:

    This is my second favourite film of 2013 so far (the honour of 1st goes to Wreck-It Ralph, don’t judge me!)

    So glad to see you liked this. It really connected with me on an emotional level. And in a year of reboots and sequels, it was nice to see some originality and brave film-making.

  4. karamelkinema says:

    i really adore the triptych structure which allow a unique storytelling for the film. I really enjoyed the last part too, i feel like that was sort of the calm before the storm (which is the ironic ending of the film). Glad you think so about DeHaan! I really like his acting so far and excited about his future project too!

    • I did think the last part was the weakest but it still had its good points, DeHaan being one. I’ve seen him in a few things now and been impressed every time. I don’t think it’ll be long before he’s more of a household name.

  5. Strong post– There’s a danger when the formula for scriptwriting demands the hook in the first 10 minutes be exciting, but then when the subsequent 2nd and 3rd movements change paces too drastically, one either can look at the shift as time to absorb the characters while others would say the middle or last third of the film was boring, they wanted the hook back.

    • Thanks Cindy. Good points there. I think they got a lot right with the narrative, it was good to see something a bit different. The film makers had every right to write it the way they did, i just found my interest waning a little towards the end. I think the fact that the final third was so far removed from the first did make it easier to detach from the story a bit.

  6. CMrok93 says:

    Very good cast, which makes the material all the more emotional and compelling to watch, but by the end, the story begins to fall off of its hindges. Especially that last story. Seriously, that was just dumb. Good review.

  7. Pretty excellent review, man. I’m with you 100%. The acting is the best attribute here, that and the epic scope. Although the length of the movie is one of the things that’s going against it. If it could have trimmed 20 minutes or so, somehow, I think it would have been much better. Still, very good flick, glad to see you liked it!

    • Thanks Fogs. I was really impressed by the acting, I think everyone is really strong throughout. Although Cooper’s kid is pretty annoying. It is a tad on the long side though, I agree, although I feel it’s kinda necessary because of the three sections.

  8. ckckred says:

    Nice review. I liked this a bit more than you did. I was really impressed by the large scope of the film, though like you think the last third of the movie is unsatisfactory.

  9. Absolutely loved this. One of my films of the year. Top write up buddy.

  10. ruth says:

    I like Eva Mendes so I’ll give this a rent. I kept thinking about Sati’s comment on Twitter last Friday though about Gosling’s high-pitched scream, ahah. I really don’t care for his voice at all.

    • Mendes is pretty decent although she’s not in it a massive amount, although no one person is in it throughout. Haha, she’s right, Gosling’s screams are a little weird, he sounds like his voice breaks! Worth a watch I reckon though Ruth.

  11. Zoë says:

    I really, really enjoyed this one. They did this so well. Awesome review, and glad to see you enjoyed it!

  12. Mark Walker says:

    Nice one Chris. I really liked this and consider it one of the best films of the year. The only real issue I had was the final third where we asked to believe in a chance meeting between the sons. It was a little tenuous but otherwise a fantastic film.

  13. Far from perfect but I really appreciate how Cianfrance is really swinging for the fences. One of the best films I have seen this year. I also thought this film looked amazing. Now I want to get a motorcycle.

  14. Tyson Carter says:

    Man Coopers kid was annoying………nice write up buddy, great film 🙂

  15. sati says:

    I agree the third part was the worst, I didn’t like the first 2 stories this much but I barely made it through the last 40 minutes. I really liked Cooper’s performance but Gosling’s girly way of screaming made me laugh 🙂

  16. table9mutant says:

    Great review. Agree with most everything (except I didn’t like Ray Liotta as I thought he played the same sort of role he always does). The hubby & I pretty much agree on most films but I really liked this one and he thought, although it started out good, that by the end it was pretty bad. I agree the third section is probably the weakest but I really liked it (it was the second section where I got a bit bored). It is a shame that neither lives up to the first section of the film. And hubby has been calling Gosling a one trick pony for ages & making me angry but I’m starting to feel the same way just from the reviews I’ve read of Only God Forgives… :-/

    • Thank you! I agree Ray Liotta does play pretty much the same character every time, but he’s so good at it! I reckon I sit somewhere between you and your hubby. I didn’t think the last section was bad but it was the weakest in my opinion. I still really enjoyed the film, though. As for Gosling, I don’t think he is a on trick pony, but he’s running the risk of becoming known as one. I thought he was really great in Crazy Stupid Love, for instance.

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