Critical analysis involves cutting through the clutter and noise, which can sometimes be quite difficult. For example, I caught The Place Beyond the Pines at the Toronto International Film Festival last September and found myself at odds with the critical hosannas that poured forth. I happily fought against the charms of the film, from Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance (a beloved indie filmmaker) and star Ryan Gosling (also a saintly figure in the frames), but a second recent screening has turned me around.
Freed from the oppressive weight of festival buzz, the film’s quiet beauty seeps through any and all trained resistance. Cianfrance uses a formal narrative conceit (telling the story in three distinct narrative strands), but does so with the lightest touch possible, with near-invisible transitions. The themes of what gets passed down from fathers to sons (guilt and the possibility for redemption) and the undeniable force of Gosling stand the test of time and shine brightly enough to make even a jaded critic see the light. (R) Grade: A-