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Monday, 13 May 2013


Fathers and sons. This is the theme of this film directed by Derek Cianfrance.

Ryan Gosling stars in this film, as he did in Cianfrance's previous movie, Blue Valentine. In this film he plays almost the same character, a tough, working class guy who has a tendency to be violent but who is also defined by his very strong paternal instinct.

Gosling's character, Luke, discovers that he has a son by a woman who he met in a small town in New York State, played by Eva Mendes. He decides to turn to a life of crime to be able to contribute to his son's upbringing.

Cue Bradley Cooper. He plays a cop, Avery Cross, who finally catches up with Luke after he robs one bank too many. The police officer has his own run in with authority and later sparks an internal police investigation to save his own skin.

Move forward fifteen years, and the two men's sons, now both seventeen, encounter each other in the small town where their respective fathers had their fateful meeting.

There is the predictable influence of history on this new generation. The sons know nothing about the connection between their parents, but the past inevitably makes itself known. The two younger men have their own entanglement, and things come to a head with the violence, and the threat of worse.

This is a curious film. It is slow, and long, and should really drag, though does somehow manage to maintain interest. The changing of the perspectives helps here, we move from Gosling's character to Cooper, to then looking at the lives of the sons.

For me the differing narratives are what makes the film interesting. Ryan Gosling's character is central for nearly an hour, and then Bradley Cooper's compromised cop takes over, almost seamlessly. There is a development to the story that holds the viewer, and a form of resolution in the last half an hour that succeeds in fitting the narratives together, of making sense.

It is not as profound as it thinks it is, but the movie does have elements that raise it above what could have been an overly sentimental story of family, fathers and sons.


  1. We went to see this last night. it was a welcome break from a pretty long parade of sci-fi, action, summer block-buster-type films.
    I was very impressed with this. It was long and I was aware of the length while watching it but, importantly, I didn't mind. I almost got a kick out of seeing how long they could keep it up without my interest waning. I agree about the transitions between character points of view also. It could have felt like watching three different movies but, instead, it flowed and created a single almost seamless narrative. I thought there were some excellent performances too, it was probably the best showing I've yet seen from Bradley Cooper and I thought Rose Byrne, although she didn't get a lot of screen-time, played her part brilliantly. The only thing I think might have improved it is a deeper exploration of the relationship between Jason and his adoptive father, since, as you point out, the theme is fathers and sons.

  2. I think it's a crucial point that he didn't just "decide to turn to a life of crime". Yes of course he had a choice, but he was hunted down in the forest by an opportunist who took advantage of him, manipulated him and influenced him.

    We see the same thing with the cops trying to drag Avery down.

    We see Avery's son trying to drag down Jason.

    We also see that when Avery did succumb to the temptation - to lie about who fired first - he was hounded by this guilt for years until he was redeemed and allowed to finally claim his guilt and apologize to the son, Jason.

    In fact the past didn't just make itself known... It appears to have directly affected Avery's ability to even LOOK at his son. The past was always there, folded in Avery's wallet.

    We see finally at the end of the film, after the redemption, the first eye contact between them. AJ in bandages, glancing up as his dad enters the room.

    First, Luke succumbs to the influence to the temptation of stealing; then Luke agrees to the lie about this shooting; and then the sons... After the 3rd level of this trail of untruth and injustice was revealed in the sons of the men - I had this strong sense of how EPIC the film felt in scope.

    We know so very very little about how the lives of our parents, their parents shape our interactions. I felt the film pulled this knotty clusterf*ck apart very well.

    - My 2 cents!

    - Heather

  3. Some interesting points...
    @Ronan: agree about the relationship between the adoptive father and son being interesting, though I think that what they did show was slight but substantial. He does call him Dad.

    @Heather: I do think that the film was epic, it spanned fifteen years, two generations, many lives effected. The cinematography reflected this, as well as the score and the whole atmosphere of the movie felt substantial. The thing felt like it mattered.

    (meant to mention about the setting being important - Schenectady, New York, rural, hidden, claustrophobic. This is of course where the title comes from, Schenectady means, in the Mohawk language, the place beyond the pines.


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