Schenectady is a Mohawk word that means beyond the pine plains. The Place Beyond the Pines, fittingly, is a movie that takes place in Schenectady, New York. The movie begins as the tale of a motorcycle riding stuntman named Luke who comes as part of a traveling carnival to Schenectady. One night at the carnival he is visited by a woman named Romina who he has met before. She seems to want to be with him, but at the same time is distant and doesn’t say much. It turns out she has had a child and it is his. This news changes his life. Luke wants to be with her and provide for his new-found family. Romina already has a man and doesn’t seem to want the help from Luke.
Luke is left with a dilemma: how can he be part of his son’s life and how can he provide for him? He tries at first to get a job and provide for his son, but that doesn’t pay him enough so he turns to illegal means to get his son what he thinks he needs. He starts robbing banks using his motorcycle skills to make quick getaways. However, there is no getting away from the decisions he has made. There is no changing the mistakes of the past. There is no way to prevent these mistakes from effecting the future.
What follows is a story that shows the values of various characters and how their decisions really change the course of events through time. It is the story of the lives of the citizens of Schenectady, New York: The Place Beyond the Pines.
Derek Cianfrance, the director of the film, is really one to look out for. He has only one other narrative film to his credit, the well received Blue Valentine. That film stars Ryan Gosling, who plays Luke in this film. He is excellent here as are all the actors in this film. Derek Cianfrance really knows how to get a great performance out of his actors. Especially good is Bradley Cooper who plays a cop that crosses paths with Luke. There is a depth here that you don’t see in his cool guy roles in movies such as The A-Team and The Hangover. Eva Mendes, similarly, gets to really perform here in a way that is not always seen from her. It is easily the best performance I have seen her give. Again, Derek Cianfrance shows that he can really get great performances out of his actors.
The one actor who just seems to be coasting is Ray Liotta. It’s not that he does anything wrong. It’s just that his character might as well have been called Ray Liotta. Everything about his character is so obvious from the moment he shows up on screen. It’s as if the role was too perfect a fit for him to really play. Someone else in the role might have added a little bit of surprise to it.
The other issue in the movie comes with the believability of certain situations. There are definitely times in the movie where you just have to go with what is being presented on screen and not think about it too much. The ending, however, is the opposite scenario. If you just watch it without thinking too much than it can be a little underwhelming. However, when considering everything that has come before and what the ending really means for the characters of the movie it can be pretty satisfying.
Overall, The Place Beyond the Pines is a very compelling look at the choices people make in their lives and how they can effect the future. It is about the kind of life we are given and what we choose to do with it. It is the coming of a great new talent in the movie business to watch out for in the coming years.