Paths of ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’
Ashley Jo Will
Having previous seen “Drive” starring Ryan Gosling as a stuntman, I became interested when I discovered another movie with Ryan Gosling also portraying a stuntman. Released on video Aug. 6, 2013, “The Place Beyond The Pines” contains multiple stories about characters trying to figure out their identity. Luke is a motorcycle stunt driver who seems to appear at local fairs, similar to the attractions that come year after year at the Sweetwater County Fair. This daredevil has a talent for riding a motorcycle well and has a hot temper. When Luke discovers he is a father, his entire life changes. The audience will follow Luke’s path and see where it takes him, as well as other characters, as he struggles with his new role in life.
After a performance one night, Luke sees Romina, a woman he had a previous fling with. Luke would like to spend time with Romina before he is scheduled to leave town. Romina is hesitant and doesn’t seem interested in anything other than saying hello. Luke goes to Romina’s house and finds an old lady with a baby in her arms. With confusion, Luke asks who the baby is in front of him. Romina’s mother says simply, “He’s yours” and lets Luke hold him. Luke is startled with this revelation and confronts Romina. He asks her if she has something to tell him. Romina doesn’t have anything to say to him until Luke reveals what he already knows. Luke had taken off as usual after last year’s fair not thinking of communicating with Romina until the following year.
Luke’s path immediately changes course when he discovers the existence of his son named Jason. With no way to reach Luke, Romina moved on with her life. She works at a diner and lives with her mother as well as Kofi, the man she is now in a relationship with. Romina acts as if she would have preferred that Luke never know he was a father. Her life was moving along just fine until Luke made the recent discovery. Now Luke wants to be as involved in his son’s life as possible. Luke tells Romina, “I wasn’t around my dad. Look how I turned out.” The newfound father wants to create memories for his son that are special between the two of them, such as serving Jason ice cream for the first time. Romina frustrates Luke by asking how he will provide for Jason. Luke doesn’t know yet but the how is secondary to his desire.
Instead of leaving town with the rest of the stunt motorcycle crew, Luke asks for an advancement on his pay. When Luke’s boss says no, Luke explains that he is quitting. With little money and a motorcycle, Luke takes a ride among the pines. Luke encounters a man named Robin who is amazed by his skills as he watches Luke ride. Robin inquires about Luke’s situation. Luke explains that he has just arrived in town with no job. Luke accepts a job from Robin in his repair shop. He also is allowed to live in a trailer outside Robin’s place. Yet the money Luke earns is not enough to support Luke’s fantasy. He dreams of Kofi disappearing from Romina’s life and taking Romina and Jason in his trailer and traveling wherever their path takes them. Robin suggests that he and Luke could rob banks together to make some quick money. With experience on his side, Robin explains that robbing a few banks is not a problem and tells Luke the proper and safe method for this criminal activity. Luke accepts the proposition and he and Robin form a team. Luke robs banks while Robin waits with a delivery truck, ramp ready for Luke’s motorcycle with the money. Robin had told Luke that the experience is, “the biggest rush of your life.” That statement proves true and the plentiful money only increases Luke’s desire for more.
Luke buys a crib and arrives at Romina’s home without calling first. He begins to set up the new furniture for Jason but becomes involved in an altercation with Kofi. Luke also attempts to simply give Romina money but she is hesitant to accept this gesture. Despite Romina’s reluctance of changing her life around, Luke still wants to rob banks and collect as much money as he can, thinking an abundance of cash will enable him to buy his son gifts and make the difference between being a good father and not. Robin warns Luke, “If you ride like lightning, you’re going to crash like thunder.” Luke increasingly becomes more aggressive and he disregards any advice from Robin. During a botched escape plan, Luke calls Romina and makes one request concerning Jason. He says, “Don’t tell him about me.” If Luke is arrested, he doesn’t want to be known as a father who is in jail for robbing banks.
The movie then shifts to the perspective of Avery, the police officer pursuing Luke. Avery is an ambitious officer who must deal with the consequences of encountering Luke. He is praised as a hero by the community for stopping the local bank robber. On the other hand, Avery must live with the guilt of robbing a baby of his father. Avery has a son who is Jason’s age and cannot look at his own son without thinking of Luke’s son. Although never personally knowing Avery, Luke affects many aspects of Avery’s life as he searches for his identity. Avery deals with a corrupt department as he strives to rise to the top. He is never allowed to forget about Luke and Jason. Years pass once more and now the perspective of the film focuses on two teenage boys, searching for their identity as well, whose lives are also touched by the fateful unsuccessful bank robbery getaway. The film comes to a close in the place beyond the pines in a fateful moment that connects many of the characters. Sometimes it is difficult to discern where a particular path in “The Place Beyond the Pines” is heading which can make watching this film difficult. One path may also be much more interesting than the other paths as well. The paths in “The Place Beyond the Pines” are many but if followed by the audience, they all intersect.