Symbolically, the story has no heroes but only ruthless circumstantial details of the protagonists' convoluted frenzy set against the backdrop of a rural town, where there are banks, farm houses, travelling carnivals, small-town corrupt police officials and most of all there are the back roads that lead to the pines. Revealing the story would be a spoiler because the way it unfolds with its innovative plot structure creates a distinctive curiosity that keeps you glued to your seat till the very end.
It's not the type of film that would appeal to every audience, nevertheless the non-serious fans of cinema would appreciate and applaud the attempt made by director Derek Cianfrance. It's the story of two fathers - Luke Glanton, a tattooed daredevil motorcyclist, and Avery Cross, a super hero cop who later becomes a politician - and their sons - Jason Glanton and AJ Cross, respectively. The story unravels how their lives are intertwined by fate.
Also, on the periphery are two other dads - Albert Cross, Avery's dad and Kofi Jason's foster father. Supporting them are Romina as Luke's one-night stand and the mother of his son, Robin as Luke's accomplice and the rest of the names in the cast, as police officers and colleagues of Avery.
The film can be divided in three chapters. Chapter one is Luke's story. Chapter two is Avery's story and Chapter three is Jason and AJ's story. The three chapters are distinct, yet seamlessly merge. Within each chapter Cianfrance and his co-writers Ben Coccio and Darius Marde manage to script a powerful, passionate and stimulating drama with fascinating characterisation. What enhances the film is the performance by the cast, which is raw and exciting.
Ryan Gosling as the charming Luke, vacillating between a caring dad and disturbed bank robber plays his part effortlessly. Luke is perhaps the most fascinating character in the story, and Gosling positively makes himself worthy of such attention. Bradley Cooper as Avery Cross gives a fine performance, but he is constantly forced to underplay due to his character's uncertainty.
Ben Mendelsohn as Robin and Mahershala Ali as Kofi breathe genuine life into what are otherwise minor yet consequential characters in Luke's chapter of the story.
Eva as Romina may not be as effective as the others in the film as her character requires her to be in the margin, but the off-screen vibes between her and Gosling are very much evident. Dane Haan as Jason and Emory Cohen as AJ are emerging actors with bundle of talent.
Sean Bobbitt's cinematography consisting of long panning shots of the backdrop along with the quiet and still shots is exemplary and attractive. It just shows his strength as a cinematographer who has an eye for scene composition. Apart from the visuals, the soundtrack enhances the viewing experience. With lyrics like - "Would you leave me alone, there alone" and "...all seeing god is watching over us", match the mood of the film. In addition to the film's background score, there are soundtracks by Mike Patton, Vladimir Ivanoff, Arvo Park, Bon Iver and Ennio Morricone, which are worth a mention.
With powerful exploration, Cianfrance ensures that the tightly constructed plot of the film is never forced. Unfortunately, it's the final moments that you feel it is slipping especially with its curtailed ending. It leaves you pining for more. Nevertheless, it is a good film overall, definitely worth a watch.
Producer: Lynette Howell, Sidney Kimmel, Alex Orlovsky, Jamie Patricof
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Mahershala Ali, Ben Mendelsohn, Dane Dehaan, Emory Cohen, Harris Yulin, Robert Clohessy, Bruce Greenwood and Rose Byrne
Music: Mike Patton
Cinematographer: Sean Bobbitt