Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt motorcyclist working in a carnival. He sees Romina (Eva Mendes) a woman who he had a fling with previously and discovers that she has given birth to his son, but moved in to a relationship with Kofi (Mahershala Ali). Deciding to dedicate his life to his newly discovered son, he quits the carnival but discovers how difficult life can be without skills and with face tatts. Luckily, he meets Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) an ex-bank robber who scopes out Luke’s skills on the bike and they work together to start-up the old business. Things don’t go great, and in steps rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). The film’s focus turns to Avery and his life in a corrupt police force. After some stuff happens, the story jumps fifteen years. Avery and his wife, Jennifer (Rose Byrne) have split. Avery is running for political office, and Jennifer sends their son, AJ (Emory Cohen) to live with him as he is running off the rails. In his new school, AJ meets Jason (Dane DeHaan), Luke’s son. Without any knowledge of the connection between their parents, they begin getting in trouble together.
That’s a pretty difficult plot to tell without spoilers, but I think I’ve done it. I think. Apologies if I spoilt anything. The Place Beyond the Pines is like three different films stitched together. It is very much the old Shakespearean tale of the sins of the father being revisited upon the sins of the son; the story of Jason could be the early days of Luke, yet it is partly the life of Luke that caused Jason’s stories to go the way it did. I think I enjoyed the film, although it is the type of film that it seems wrong to describe as ‘enjoying’ – I appreciated it, I appreciated the beauty of the cinematography and the pacing. The characters annoyed me so much, making bad decisions, or living lives that are the results of many bad decisions. But I still wanted them to work it out. Like one of director Derek Cianfrance’s previous works, Blue Valentine, it’s not quite sadtacular for me, but it’s certainly getting there.