Among the things that made director Derek Cianfrance’s breakout feature, Blue Valentine
, so powerful was its extremely limited scope. With The Place Beyond the Pines
, Cianfrance expands this scope, enveloping two families across more than a decade of distress, triumph and tragedy. Yet somewhere along the way, the director loses the heart that marked his previous triumph. The Place Beyond the Pines
packs bravura performances across a sprawling narrative. But it’s also about 60 minutes longer than it needs to be, and runs out of gas after its remarkable first act. It’s a film that’s completely overstuffed, and oftentimes overcooked. In the film’s most captivating section, we’re introduced to Luke (Ryan Gosling), a carnival stuntman who discovers he's sired a son. As he turns to robbing banks, he crosses paths with a rookie cop (Bradley Cooper), who himself comes across massive corruption. Were that not enough, the film then fast-forwards 15 years to peer into the clichéd lives of the pair's sons. Each segment has a rushed quality, and too little time devoted to developing motivations. Had Cianfrance given his characters more room to breathe, the film might transcend the genre trappings it falls into so easily. In widening his lens, the director loses focus on the big picture.