As of Yet Unnamed Simply Film Podcast: The Place Beyond the Pines

This Week: Gabriel Vogel, Joe Holley, Albert Cantu, and Andrew King

Show Notes:

What We’ve Been Watching: 0:00 – 23:15

The Place Beyond the Pines Review: 23:16- 45:44

The Place Beyond the Pines Review



Returning to the director’s chair after his hit indie film Blue Valentine, with The Place Beyond the Pines Derek Cianfrance proves that he can be considered a truly great, new director. A sprawling two and half hour long epic, The Place Beyond the Pines is a story in three parts that delves into themes of morality, determinism, and closely examines the effects fathers have on their children, and visa-versa. This film is an emotional powerhouse, with a fantastic performance from Ryan Gosling, as well as strong performances all around. Expecting to dislike this movie, I was absolutely blown away by the film.

The film takes place in the small New York town of Schenectady, which interestingly enough is a name loosely taking from a Mohawk word that translates to “Place Beyond the Pines.” The movie first centers on Ryan Gosling as “Handsome” Luke Glanton, a professional and heavily tattooed motorcycle rider who goes city to city with a traveling carnival. However he gives this life up when he is informed that a woman he has slept with in Schenectady is raising his now one year old son. Luke turns to a life of crime and starts robbing banks in order to provide for his newly born son. Bradley Cooper’s character Avery, a police man and moral paragon, is then introduced and the film shifts its focus to a tale of police corruption and Avery’s struggle with it. Finally, the third and most interesting act of the film is about the friendship and conflict between the sons of the earlier protagonists, as they struggle with their respective relationships with their fathers, as well as dealing with the history between Luke and Avery.

While much of the talk about this film has been glowing praise for Ryan Gosling (let’s be honest here, this is nothing new, he’s great), the acting all around is pretty excellent. Specifically, Eva Mendes’s portrayal of Luke Glanton’s poverty stricken baby mama is a step away from her usual roles, as well as a highlight of the film. However, some of the best acting in the film comes from Dane DeHaan, who is likely best known as the lead in last year’s found footage superhero flick, Chronicle. As Luke’s 17 year old son, DeHaan is tragic and compelling, bringing a much needed emotional center to the latter half of the film.

What makes this film achieve a level of excellence, however, is not the acting but rather the thematic through lines of the film. The film is ambitious in its approach to tackling issues of paternal relationships, as well as morality, which raises an interesting conversation about how morality relates to cultural standards and laws. At the same time, the film does a perfect job of not overextending thematically, by which I mean the film doesn’t try to tackle anything that was too lofty to wrap up by the end. This movie leaves the viewer with a desire to ponder the films themes, without leaving any serious unanswered questions. It’s a hugely emotional film, as well as a film with just the perfect amount of depth. I could not recommend this film more highly.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Blue Valentine Review

Movies often don’t show you what happens after the happily ever after ending. Blue Valentine is all about what that ending really means for the parties involved. A young marriage between people who love each other more than life itself can be a beautiful thing but as Blue Valentine shows us it is often built on a shaky foundation.

Blue Valentine at its core is a movie about two people falling in love and that love’s eventual decay. These two people are Dean and Cindy played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Dean is a painter and Cindy is a nurse they are married and have a little girl named Frankie. These are normal people who fell in love and got married thinking it would solve all of their problems, but they find that their passion doesn’t last. It’s come to the point where it’s even hard for them to be in the same room anymore. To cope with their unhappy marriage Cindy immerses herself in her work and Dean tries desperately to save their relationship with stupid romantic gestures.

Long-term relationships are hard. They force us to make compromises and act selflessly when we might not want to. Blue Valentine’s greatest accomplishment is no doubt its portrayal of this. A dying relationship is a hard thing to depict convincingly. This could have easily turned into a film about a nagging wife and her alcoholic and abusive husband, but it’s something much more complex and real than that.

A great part of that realism is brought by the film’s superb performances. They give Blue Valentine a depth that is needed when dealing with such complex issues. Gosling and Williams give some of the rawest performances I have ever seen.  They are completely uncompromising, giving you the closest thing you will ever get to a complete deterioration of a marriage on the silver screen.

This movie is broken in to two sections: the beginning of the relationship and its disastrous end. The beginning is expressed through dreamy flashbacks showing how perfect and wonderful things once were while the end is shown through a gritty and disillusioned eye. We move back and forth between the past and present so often that its like the film is showing us the before and after photos of a disastrous car crash forcing us to ask how could this have happened.

One of the most impressive things about this film is that it portrays the implosion of a marriage, yet it doesn’t point to any single cause. While there are many things that can be blamed for the failure of the relationship, there are no easy answers. Complex issues like this are better handled with a more nuanced view, and thankfully Blue Valentine was here to give that to us.

Rarely does a movie this raw and emotionally intense come along. It is truly refreshing to see a film interested in nothing but the truth. Blue Valentine is bored of the fake happy ending of your typical movie romance. It wants to show you the despair of watching something slowly die from within. This may not be the most enjoyable thing to watch, but it’s necessary and maybe even beautiful in a sad way. If you’re looking for a fun romance that ends on a happy note go elsewhere, but if you’re looking for truth then you’ve found it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5