Tangled Roots

A heavily tattooed motorcycle stuntman employed in a travelling state fair pining for his infant child.

Written by Shalini Langer | Published:April 13, 2013 12:55 am

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

DIRECTOR: Derek Cianfrance

CAST: Ryan Gosling,Bradley Cooper,Eva Mendes,Rose Bryne,Ray Liotta

RAting: ***1/2

A heavily tattooed motorcycle stuntman employed in a travelling state fair pining for his infant child. That’s the seemingly incongruous premise of the first part of The Place Beyond The Pines. When Luke (Gosling) looks down at his grimy hands,rubs them in a bid to clean them and holds his child for the first time,Cianfrance has you sold on this film about fathers and sons,crime and punishment,actions and reactions,status and society.

In one of his best roles so far,Gosling is touching and heartbreaking in how he portrays the desperation of Luke to be a part of son Jason and estranged girlfriend Romina’s (Mendes) life. The more he tries,the more distance he puts between them — the worst of which is going on a bank-robbing spree to show he can provide for the two of them. Luke’s happiest moment is buying the seven-month-old an ice-cream,delighting in the fact that there was one thing that Jason did for the first time where he was present. Luke’s worst is when shabby and in torn T-shirt,he watches from far as Romina’s current boyfriend holds Jason as he gets baptised in an ostentatious church amid his cheering “new family”.

Gosling has a way with silence,with his eyes doing all the talking,and here he lets Luke’s lost cause hang all out. Cianfrance films the sequence of the bank robberies,Gosling’s strained voice cracking up as he orders the tellers to put the money in his bag,and Luke’s dash in his bike from the scene with the same urgency and sense of fatalism.

An end always seems around the corner,and when it does come,it has on the other side cop Avery (Cooper). Cooper and Gosling are quite alike in the kind of characters they play as well as their physicality,but it’s quite clever of Cianfrance to pit them,in a way,against each other. If Gosling is all about a man who sees his future too clearly,Cooper is a character forever roiled by his present.

Avery is hailed as a hero for having dealt with Luke the bank robber,but heroism comes plagued with doubts,some brought on by a district attorney investigation and others by his own discomfort at the tag. Cianfrance again takes you by surprise when he puts Avery before Romina in a set of circumstances that you could have hardly anticipated. Father of a son who is the same age as Luke’s,Avery finds himself standing next to Jason’s crib,being asked to lift him.

However,coincidences can only be believable sometimes. It’s beyond this that The Place Beyond The Pines begins to strain,when it brings in cop corruption and ends up 15 years later with the sons of Luke and Avery thrown together. Where Cianfrance (who is also the co-screenwriter) delighted so far with the surprises he has for his characters,here he puts a string of cliches their way. The women,both Mendes and Bryne who plays Avery’s wife,are side shows as the sons play out their preordained father issues — amid,all things,an election for attorney general.

shalini.langer@expressindia.com

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