From beginning to end, this movie is about how choices and actions affect all others around you, even creating legacies that last much longer than is initially obvious. This can be a deep and meaningful message in some contexts but this film prefers to keep a hands-off approach to conveying any sort of lesson. A moving piece at times, The Place Beyond the Pines can ironically leave the viewer a bit empty.
My gut feeling of dissatisfaction stood in stark contrast to the fact that I enjoyed the movie. It took some reflection later in the night to appreciate what I had seen but I still need to fault the execution a bit. For such an expertly unpredictable first act, the police drama that follows feels too obvious and mundane. Even worse, The Place Beyond the Pines is one of those 2 hour 20 minute movies that really could have shaved off 20 minutes.
All of this gives the impression that I disliked the movie but the truth is that it is a powerful experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. None of the characters in the film are saints and deal with life as it is presented to them. The acting performances are top notch and the sometimes dissonant musical tones work well to drive the emotional notes, creating a film with soul. The Place Beyond the Pines isn’t so much about telling the audience how to live but instead chooses to show connectivity in action, inviting the viewer to bring in their own meaning. This sort of thing, while not for everyone, is likely to leave a lasting impression.