The Place Beyond the Pines

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

We can get one thing out of the way: the title refers to Schenectady, New York. The city's name, according to Wikipedia,

…is derived loosely from a Mohawk word for "on that side of the pinery," or "near the pines," or "place beyond the pine plains."

So there you go. If you watch this movie, you won't have to wonder about that, like I did.

The movie is an epic, played out over the span of 15 years or so. But it begins when Luke (Ryan Gosling), a carny motorcycle stunt driver, becomes aware that he's the father of one-year-old Jason. Jason's mother, Romina (Eva Mendes), is trying to raise the boy with the help of current boyfriend Kofi and her mother.

Luke tries to do the "right thing". He quits the carny and its nomadic ways, and tries to settle down with an honest job. But (surprisingly enough) his motorcycle stunt skills do not translate smoothly into the mainstream Schenectady job market. So (ironically, I guess) he tries Career Plan B: professional Schenectady bank robber.

Unsurprisingly, this does not go well. Luke's clumsy efforts to horn in on the increasingly stable domesticity of Kofi and Romina go sour. His partner in crime gets cold feet, and their relationship goes south too. Eventually,… well, no spoilers here, but the other male star in this movie is Bradley Cooper, and when he shows up, playing a beat cop, the movie takes an unexpected (for me) turn.

The movie is noirish, skillfully acted and executed. Not for those looking for tales of redemption and triumph, though.