A Place Beyond The Pines

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Ironic really, I missed a Skype appointment with my Dad to watch a film about disjointed families and in particular, father-son relationships.

Why does it generally seem more difficult for characters in films to establish stable relationships with Fathers rather than Mothers? There seems to be a glamorized mystery around a Father who leaves the familial home: the unknown parent is always somewhat alluring in this case. Even if it is not specifically alluded to, it seems to be more acceptable than witnessing a mother do the same. Anyway, according to Scott Stossel writing in The Business Insider, for men to be happy a good relationship with their mother is paramount; ‘Men who had “warm” childhood relationships with their mothers earned an average of $87,000 more a year than men whose mothers were uncaring’. Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/05/thanks-mom/309287/#ixzz2RzZiNWoT. Successful directors probably see their mothers as Saints.

Contrastingly, the protagonists in ‘A Place Beyond the Pines’ are people who were born into unhappiness, and have it deeply engrained within their personal history. How does one escape this unhappiness when so much depends on our early relationships, especially with our parents? In other words, it is a vicious cycle.  Cianfrance seems painfully aware of this inescapable character predicament, that is perfectly captured in a singular moment when Luke (Ryan Gosling) meets the eye of the man (Robin played by Ben Mendelsohn) who will ultimately lead him on a downward path of destruction, whilst they are both coincidentally racing motor/quad bikes in the Schenectady forest at the same time.

A cinematographic parallel which springs to mind is Kurosawa’s rapid camera movements and innovative shift in focus from the Samurai’s to the trees in the film ‘The Seven Samurai’.  In ‘A Place Beyond the Pines’ the camera ducks and dives to keep up with Luke on his motorbike, applying the same ethos, energy, and intensity, implying a great rush of adrenaline. However, when eyes meet, everything slows down with a fateful perception of events yet to happen. We can sense Luke’s journey is sealed.

Luke had made ripples; creating a disconnect in Avery (Bradley Cooper) between his professional and private self that was never repaired. In turn this was transferred to Averys’ son, AJ (Emory Cohen) who through no fault of his own, appears never to establish a viable relationship with his father. This was stated directly by Avery in his counseling sessions ‘I can’t look at my son anymore’. This coincided with the time Luke came into their lives. The shadow of Luke weighs heavily upon the film as it unfolds. Ironically, Avery’s healthy relationship to his own father is the linchpin of his professional success.

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The overarching theme of cyclical paternal relationships is difficult to escape.  People are formed from their personal histories and circumstances which become embedded in their psychies, Luke was desperate to protect his son from this and half-succeded. The ending, for me, was a optimistic moment which cast a rare positive light on his legacy.

Conclusion- was it a good film?

Considering that the budget was almost double that of ‘Blue Valentine’ Cianfrance dealt intelligently with tricky subjects and a sizeable leap in scale, proving that he can competently handle blockbuster ambitions.

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