The Place Beyond the Pines Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

One moment can change a life: the essence of the film The Place Beyond the Pines (2012): Plot analysis, meaning.

Country: USA

Genre: crime drama, thriller

Year of production: 2012

Directed by: Derek Cienfrance

Actors: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Mahershala Ali

Slogan: “One moment can change your life”

Awards and Nominations: 2013 National Board of Film Critics Top 10 Independent Film of the Year 2014 Nominated for Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor (Ryan Gosling), Nominated for Saturn Award for Best Thriller

The plot and meaning of the film “The Place Beyond the Pines” has two interpretations. According to the first, this is a picture about family values. The second theme is revealed by the slogan: “One moment can change your life”, it means: “One moment can change your life.”

What does the title of the movie mean?

The film “The Place Beyond the Pines” got its name from the town of Schenectady, where most of the events take place. The territory on which it is located was inhabited by the Mohawk tribe. They called their settlement “skenektadi”, which means: “the place behind the pines” or “the place next to the pines”.

The name takes on additional meaning, echoing the expression “place under the sun”, which means “the right to exist”, as well as “a strong place in society”.

Ryan Gosling, Eva MendesRyan Gosling played the role of Luke, Eva Mendes played Romina. Frame from the film.

What is the movie about

The Place Beyond the Pines is a triptych film, that is, a three-part film. The first is the story of motorcycle stuntman Luke Glanton, the second is police officer Avery Cross, and the third is their sons, Jason Cancam and AJ Cross, who by chance get to know each other. Each subsequent part flows smoothly from the previous one, all three are closely intertwined and united by a common idea.

Luke Glanton

The hero of the first part of the film, Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), is a stuntman touring the country with extreme numbers. In Schenectady, after the performance, he meets his ex-girlfriend Romina. From the content of the conversation, it becomes clear that they had a relationship about a year ago, after which he left without warning.

Glanton learns that Romina is raising his son, whom he didn’t know about. Luke offers to live and raise a child together, but Romina reveals that she is dating another – Kofi Cancam (Mahershala Ali).

Luke leaves his job as a motorcycle stuntman and stays in the city. The meaning of his actions is that he wants to see his son. He meets mechanic Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), works for him, but realizes that the money he earns is not enough to support his family. Robin suggests that he start robbing banks. Luke refuses, but later accepts the offer. He has money, he spends more time with Romina and Jason. During one of the walks, he feeds the baby ice cream, and then the three of them are photographed.

Further, according to the plot, Luke buys gifts for Jason and brings them to Kofi’s house without permission. Romina refuses to accept them, a conflict arises, Glanton stabs Cancam. He is arrested but released on bail posted by Robin. Luke returns the money to his friend and offers to continue the robberies. The mechanic refuses. Glanton goes to Romina and gives her all his money. Robin destroys his motorcycle to keep him out of trouble. Luke threatens him with a gun and takes the money from him.

Luke buys a motorcycle and goes to the bank. The robbery breaks down, the chase begins for him. Glanton flees from his pursuers, but another car appears. It contains a young police officer, Avery Cross. Luke hides from him in an apartment building, but Cross finds him. Glanton goes up to the second floor, calls Romina and asks her not to tell her son the truth about him. Cross knocks down the door, bursts into the room, sees Luke and shoots him out of surprise. Luke fires back and hits Avery in the knee before falling out of the window and shattering. This is the end of his story.

Bradley CooperAvery Cross is played by Bradley Cooper. Frame from the film.

Avery Cross

The second part of The Place Beyond the Pines is dedicated to Avery Cross. Wounded by Glanton, he lies in the hospital. After an investigation into the appropriateness of the shot, his actions are justified, and he himself is recognized as a hero. Avery learns that Luke, like himself, has a one-year-old son. He is tormented by remorse, as he believes that he has deprived the child of his father.

Cross is released. Colleagues led by Deluca (Ray Liotta) come to him and persuade him to go with them on an unofficial assignment. The police arrive at Romina and Kofi’s home, where they threaten them to allow an unofficial search, which steals the money Luke gave to Romina. Deluca orders half of the amount to be given to Avery as a reward for his feat.

Cross returns to duty and refuses to work as a patrol officer. He offers the boss to promote him to lieutenant, but he refuses and transfers him to the evidence storage department. Here Avery examines the items found at Glanton and finds a photo of Luke with his wife and son. After a while, a colleague Scott approaches Cross and asks for help in fraudulent evidence. Avery refuses, goes to the chief of police, and gives him a description of the conversation with the policeman and the money stolen from Romina. The chief refuses to listen to his explanations, take the money and take action against the corrupt police officers.

Cross, on the advice of his father, a former judge, meets with Scott again, listens to the request for evidence manipulation and records the conversation on a voice recorder. He goes to the D.A. and hands over the audio tape, and then convinces him to appoint himself as Assistant Attorney. An investigation begins, corrupt police officers are arrested. Avery gets a new position. This is the end of the second part.

Dane DeHaanDane DeHaan played the role of Jason. Frame from the film.

Jason Cancam and AJ Cross

The events of the third part take place 15 years later. Cross is divorced and campaigning for the New York Attorney’s office. At his father’s funeral, he talks to his ex-wife, who informs him of his son AJ’s desire to live with him.

AJ moves to Schenectady with his father, goes to a new school and meets Jason Cancam, son of Luke Glanton. They buy drugs but are arrested by the police. Avory Cross intervenes and saves her son from jail. Then he learns the name of his friend, understands who it is and, still feeling remorse, helps Jason get away with it. He forbids A.J. to communicate with Cancam.

Jason talks to Kofi’s stepfather and learns his father’s name. On the Internet, he finds an article and learns that Luke was a criminal and was shot by Cross. In the same place, he reads that Glanton worked in a car repair shop, goes there and meets Robin, from whom he learns more details about his father, in particular, that he rode a motorcycle well.

AJ invites Jason to his house for a party. Cancam visits a friend and accidentally finds out whose house he is in. He gets into a fight with AJ and ends up in the hospital.

After being discharged, Jason buys a weapon and comes to A.J. He stuns the teenager and waits for his father, whom he kidnaps and rides with him into the forest.

The Place Beyond the Pines Ending explanation

At the end of The Place Beyond the Pines, Jason wants to shoot Cross for revenge. Avery asks what he did to AJ, but Cancam is silent. Cross cannot stand it, in tears he calls the teenager by name and asks for forgiveness. Jason takes his car keys and wallet from him. Opening it, he finds inside a photo of his father and mother, which Cross took from Luke’s backpack. Leaving Avery in the woods, he drives off. The meaning of the ending of The Place Beyond the Pines seems to be that Cancamp realized that Cross still has a guilty conscience, which means he has already been punished.

Avery returns home and does not press charges against Jason. He then becomes District Attorney.

Jason sends the discovered photo to Romina. Then he buys a motorcycle and leaves to travel around the country, as his father did.

The meaning of the film The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines has several hidden meanings, which can be found in a detailed analysis of the film.

Firstly, the film raises the theme of the family, namely, fatherhood. Derek Cienfrance said in an interview that the plot came to his mind a few months before the birth of his second son. At this time, he constantly thought that he would become a father for the second time and about the responsibility associated with this event.

The theme of fatherhood and attitudes towards it was eventually reflected in The Place Beyond the Pines. Luke Glanton learns that he has a child, finds a new meaning in life and completely changes it. Previously, he constantly traveled around the country, and now he settles in the city to see and raise his son. To provide for Jason, he starts robbing banks. In order to spend more time with the boy, he tries to return to Romina, although he had previously left for a year and did not try to contact her. The desire to take care of his son leads him to a fight with Kofi and prison. It also leads Luke to the last bank robbery, after which the hero dies.

Emory CohenEmory Cohen played the role of AJ. Frame from the film.

The theme of fatherhood can also be traced in the line of the second main character – Cross. He has a little son at home. When Avery learns that Luke still has a child of the same age, he begins to suffer remorse. This is the hidden meaning of the scene in which the hero returns home from the hospital and watches his son. In addition, he may feel guilty towards Luke because the shot was not justified despite the fact that during the investigation his actions were found to be legal.

This becomes clear from the scene of a conversation in the hospital with an employee of the prosecutor’s office: Cross gets confused in the testimony and, as a result, says what the interlocutor wants to hear. Then he tries to convince himself of the justification of his actions in a conversation with his wife.

Feelings of guilt and remorse haunt Cross all his life. He keeps a photo of Luke and his family. After 15 years, he immediately understands who Jason Cancam is when he hears his name and saves a teenager from prison. This is also the explanation for his actions when he asks Jason for forgiveness in the forest and that he did not apply for a teenager when he got out of the forest.

With all this, Cross does not take care of his own child: in the third part of the film, the prosecutor is divorced, while the son lives with his mother and uses drugs. When AJ moves in with his father, Avery again does not pay attention to him, explaining this by the lack of free time due to the election campaign, and also by the fact that he does not know what to do with his son.

threats in the forestDane DeHaan as Jason, Bradley Cooper as Avery. Frame from the film.

The second theme raised in “The Place Beyond the Pines” and revealing the essence of the film is related to its slogan. It sounds like “One moment can change your life”, which translates into Russian as “One moment can change your life.”

In the first part of the film, Luke Glanton is due to leave Schenectady in four hours for a national tour. The moment that changes his life and its meaning is the decision to go to Romina’s house. From her mother, he learns that he has a son, quits and stays in the city. The second moment, which again radically changes his fate, is a trip to the forest, where he accidentally meets the mechanic Robin and starts robbing banks at his suggestion.

One moment changes Avery Cross’s life. He gets in the way of Glanton, begins to pursue him and eventually kills him. Sometimes he thinks about how he would like to be somewhere else that day: he talks about this from the stands during the awards ceremony. As a result, the fate of the policeman changes dramatically.

At one point, the fate of Jason Cancam also changes when he meets A.J. Cross. His life turns so that he learns the truth about his father and his killer. In the finale, he buys a motorcycle and goes on a trip: this would not have happened if AJ had not been in the same school with him.

mother with babyFrame from the film.

Similar films

A few movies similar to The Place Beyond the Pines:

  • “Valentine” (USA, 2010). The story of a young couple, recently happy, but now experiencing a crisis in their relationship.
  • “Patrol” (USA, 2012). The story of two cops fighting crime in Los Angeles.
  • Captives (USA, 2013). The protagonist, whose daughter is kidnapped along with his girlfriend, gets tired of the inaction of the police and takes the main suspect hostage.

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