Reel Reviews: Pines deliberates on life choices

The Place Beyond the Pines is a deep, rich, elegant exploration of fate.

  • Apr. 26, 2013 7:00 a.m.
Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes star in The Place Beyond the Pines.

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes star in The Place Beyond the Pines.

Handsome Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a midway motorcycle stuntman. He and his Heartbreakers defy gravity, spinning around inside a steel sphere to the delight of fair-goers all over America.

This year, when the midway rolls into Schenectady, New York, Luke discovers he’s the father of a baby boy named Jason, as he is reintroduced to Jason’s mother, Romina (Eva Mendes).

Moved by his son, Luke decides to stay and try to provide for his new family. However, there’s not a lot of work for motorcycle tricksters in Schenectady. Cashing in on his particular skill set will require turning to a life of crime, which ultimately changes many lives, over the course of many years.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a film about how our choices lead to actions that change the world. Those closest to us are the most profoundly impacted, but those choices can roll on in time, changing lives in ways we couldn’t imagine.

We say, “It’s a deep, rich, elegant exploration of fate.”

TAYLOR: Or it’s just a long, slow film about a bunch of stuff that happens. No, I don’t believe that. A film about intentionality must be assumed to be deliberate. Pines has to be a work of art, there’s no way so many threads could come together so well by way of dumb luck. Yet, sometimes the film feels this way, as if they started writing one story that got interrupted, becoming another story. Life is sometimes like that, I suppose, breaking up our plans, our plots.

HOWE: Place Beyond the Pines doesn’t rely on tricks or CGI to make it a powerful movie. It’s about family relationships and how far we are willing to go to keep them. It’s a little over two hours and sometimes movies that long can fly by. This time my backside was telling me otherwise. I feel they could have cut 10-to-15 minutes from it and still left a solid movie.

TAYLOR: I didn’t feel that way. I was happy to watch this film. It was lovely to look at. However, I don’t want to see it again. It was a slightly uncomfortable experience, as if you could tell from the start that these characters were doomed. I also don’t understand Gosling’s appeal. I understand that he’s a beautiful boy, but I can’t read him. He’s fine, but seems incapable of emoting. In this film, we see Mr. Gosling nervous, angry and sad to the point of weeping. His expression never changes. He’s Mr. Blank Stare.

HOWE:  Gosling, Mendes and Ray Liotta all showed what fine actors they are, but for me Bradley Cooper’s role as Avery Cross stole the show. Just like in Silver Linings Playbook, he proves that he is talented and not just a pretty face.

TAYLOR: The Place Beyond the Pines is a good, serious film with an intelligently crafted story, beautifully and subtly captured. Take your dad to it.

— Taylor gives The Place Beyond the Pines 4.5 dangling cigarettes out of 5.

— Howe gives it 4 bowls of spaghetti out of 5.

The feature is currently showing at the Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.

— Peter Howe and Brian Taylor are freelance film reviewers based in Vernon, B.C. Their column, Reel Reviews, appears in The Morning Star every Friday and Sunday.