Many may not even know who Derek Cianfrance is. His name is not one you hear chanted repeatedly out in Hollywood. His directing resume is comprised mostly of TV documentaries. Two major films that he has directed that people should take an interest in are, “Blue Valentine” (2010) and “The Place Beyond the Pines” (2013). It is no surprise, after viewing these two films, that Cianfrance’s background is in documentary. Both films have documentary style directing and writing. Realistic notions of life and drama with no ideal happy ending is what makes these two films, staring Ryan Gosling, so amazing.
The film “Blue Valentine” follows the beginning and the end of love between Dean and Cindy, played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. The film goes back and forth between the past and present highlighting the differences between their relationships then and now. The two scenes that stick out the most are the hotel room and Cindy’s bedroom scene. Both scenes are coupled with the diegetic sound of, “You and Me” by Penny & The Quarters. This song drives home the idea that Dean is in love with the idea of being married to Cindy, while Cindy feels stuck in love. The real life application of falling in and out of love is portrayed with great dialogue and direction. Although the film only spans the past as six years ago, the transformation that happens inside rather than the outside is what makes Gosling and Williams terrific actors. Ironic enough, this film doesn’t give a root for the protagonist kind of vibe. Its life and in life sometimes there is no black and white, good and bad, but a shady gray area.
This idea of a shady gray area transfers to Cianfrance’s latest film, “The Place Beyond the Pines”. This film follows the lives of four very different people; a circus motorcyclist played by Ryan Gosling, a small town cop played by Bradley Cooper, and their respective sons played by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen. Aesthetically, this film is full of realism and foreshadowing. There is this idea that this is where life happens. The one downside to such a realistic style is the inability at times for the audience to see the reactions of character’s faces in dramatic events; which, understandably happens in real life. But with cinematic drama driving the audience’s reaction, character reactions are necessary. So much happens in 140 minutes that you don’t know whether to clap or just sit there in awe. Its a great movie that carries you on an emotional roller coaster. Just as you start to care for one character you are in another character’s story line. The chaos and sadness trickled between sets of happiness is what makes this film different yet so reminiscent of real life.
People go to the movies to escape real life; to make a connection with a character; to get a feeling of “you’re not the only one”. Its actually refreshing to see a film that doesn’t exactly have a happy nor bad ending…it just ends.