The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

Rated R. Our ratings: V -3; L -5; S/N -2. Running time: 2 hours 20 min.

You shall not bow down to them or worship

them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous
God, punishing children for the iniquity of
parents, to the third and the fourth generation
of those who reject me
Exodus 20.5

The sins of two fathers are visited upon their sons in this film situated in upstate New York’s Schenectady. (The title is the meaning of a Mohawk word from which the name of the city is derived.) The one father Luke (Ryan Gosling), quitting his daredevil motorcycle act at a carnival when he learns that a year earlier his tryst with a local woman named Romina (Eva Mendes) had produced a son. He uses his riding skills to escape the cops when he begins robbing banks to support his new family. The other father, Avery (Bradley Cooper), is an ambitious cop who crosses paths with the bank robber. This leads to his promotion but also an entanglement with fellow corrupt cops that forces him into unwelcome compromises with his integrity.

Years later their two sons, neither aware of the other at first, and certainly not of the past intersection of their fathers, attend the same high school, with momentous results. Luke’s son, Jason (Dane DeHaan), and Avery’s son, A.J. (Emory Cohen). Avery is on the campaign trail to become New York’s Attorney General, and it is apparent his family has suffered from his ambition, his wife estranged from him and A.J. becoming spoiled by all the luxury. When A.J. transfers schools, he meets and forms a tentative friendship with Jason. We know as they become better acquainted that Jason will find out more about his deceased father’s mysterious past and his friend’s father role in Luke’s past life, the knowledge of which will change all of their lives. This disturbing film makes you think about the old concept of “sins of the fathers.”

For Reflection/Discussion

1. How is Luke a mixture of good and bad? He wants to be a responsible father, and yet how does he decide to raise money?

2. Avery starts out as a good cop, but what sidetracks him? How do we see that one misstep leads down a totally different road than a person started upon?

3. What do you think of the Old Testament concept of the children suffering for the sins of “the fathers” ? How does the prophet Jeremiah later on correct this? And yet how are we affected by the sins of tour ancestors? A good example to discuss: the sin of slavery, how has this affected us as individuals and our society?

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