Simon Dillon reviews the tale of fathers, sons and generational curses

The Place Beyond The Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines is director Derek Cianfrance's hugely ambitious follow-up to Blue Valentine. It's a compelling if bleak tale of fathers, sons and generational curses, featuring some strong performances and bravura direction.

The plot begins in the what is probably the early nineties, centring on broke, ne'er do well motorcyclist Luke (Ryan Gosling). Discovering he had a son by waitress Romina (Eva Mendes), a woman he had a fling with, Luke decides to try and make amends - to be a present father to the child, unlike his own father. However, Romina is conflicted as she is with another man. In a misguided attempt to compete, Luke turns to bank robbery as a means of providing for his son.

From there decisions and their consequences span generations, and the story begins to feel like a contemporary Greek tragedy as sins of fathers are revisited upon their children. The theme of fatherlessness - either absent fathers, or present fathers alienated from their offspring as a result of misguided priorities - is hugely relevant, and will certainly touch a few raw nerves. The Place Beyond the Pines is an emotionally resonant parable highlighting a serious spiritual problem, though it offers no solution.

Some have criticised the screenplay for being too neat; for containing too many fateful co-incidences akin to a Dickens novel. But that didn't bother me personally. Whatever faults the film might have, it is well worth watching for the very strong performances - not just from Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper but also the supporting cast, which as well as Eva Mendes includes Ray Liotta and Rose Byrne. It's worth giving Dane DeHaan a special mention - an excellent up and coming actor who looks like a young Leonardo Di Caprio. So far he's best known for his role in Chronicle, but he's soon to star as Harry Osborn in the next Spider-man film, which should bring him to wider attention.

Cianfrance stamps his own unique directorial style on the film, often using long takes or hand-held camera to give a sense of gritty immediacy. It is also worth adding the usual warning about swearing and some strong violence, but none of it seemed out of context.

Powerful, gripping and moving, The Place Beyond the Pines is a film that lingers in the mind and gets under the skin. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.