Magazine article Screen International

The Place Behind the Pines

Magazine article Screen International

The Place Behind the Pines

Article excerpt

Dir: Derek Cianfrance. US. 2012. 140mins

Following Blue Valentine, his intimate, wrenching story of a relationship's unraveling, director Derek Cianfrance takes on a broader canvas with The Place Behind The Pines, a stylish story of interlocking families, generational links and redemption in Upstate New York. Cianfrance shows a continuing maturity in his filmmaking style, and once again shows a talent for narrative complexity, keeping the audience on its toes as the story divides into three distinct sections spanning 15 years. But The Place Behind The Pines doesn't have the emotional power of Blue Valentine; although with flashes of poignancy, this is a movie that doesn't have the same gut-pummeling weight.

Ultimately, Pines is Cooper's show, and he delivers a finely calibrated performance as a man facing multiple moral dilemmas.

Still, given Ryan Gosling's rising stardom and a handful of thrilling sequences, art-house bookings are assured and, with strong marketing, bold distributors could make a case for wider theatrical release.

Pines opens forcefully with a close-up of a man flinging a swing blade; the camera then pulls back to reveal the broad shoulders and tattooed figure of a man on a mission, as we follow him out of a trailer, through the hustle, bustle and flashing lights of a carnival, and then onto a motorcycle, where the full, peroxide blonde, leather-jacketed figure of stunt cyclist Luke (Ryan Gosling) finally emerges.

Cut from the same cloth as his character in Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive, Gosling's Luke is a sensitive, violence-prone bad-ass, a man who lives for speed, but then shows his gentle side when he learns that he has a 1-year-old son, with one-time fling Romina (Eva Mendes). When Luke decides to abandon his stunt-driving itinerant ways to bond with his infant child, he finds going straight a challenge. Soon enough, he shacks up with a likeable, but bedraggled hillbilly mechanic (terrific Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn, radiating equal parts victim and crook) and begins robbing banks to provide for his newfound family.

The film's opening section is also its most stylish: Echoing Drive, Cianfrance and veteran British cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (Shame) employ plenty of moody shallow-focus cinematography, evocative dissolves, and jacked-up fast-moving shots for tension-filled action scenes. One memorable sequence involves two motorbikes speeding through the forest, passing the trees in rapid staccato glimpses. …

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