A haunting story with passionate performances and real characters that have stayed with me... Naomi Rossdeutscher
After watching Ryan Gosling and director Derek Cianfrance promote 'Blue Valentine' at Cannes a few years back, I was intrigued to see they were doing another film together and really looking forward to experiencing it. The casting of Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn, Rose Byrne and Ray Liotta was also a huge attraction.
...And I wasn't disappointed. I love the independent look and feel of the film, the telling of one story and then moving onto another and finally marrying them together, unveiling the consequences. But it's the passionate performances and real characters that have stayed with me. I particularly enjoyed Ben Mendelsohn, who was exceptional playing a car mechanic, and Ryan Goslings' character left me feeling a haunting loss.
Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen, who played the sons, also gave compelling performances and kept the tension going through to the end.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Ryan Gosling plays a troubled motor-bike stunt performer who turns to robbing banks to support his son. Bradley Cooper plays an ambitious rookie cop struggling to find his way in a corrupt police department and the film is tied up with two troubled teenage boys confronting the mysteries of their past by battling each other.
FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR DEREK CIANFRANCE
Cianfrance: "I have always loved Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and how the movie managed that amazing hand-off from Janet Leigh to Tony Perkins as the protagonist. I wanted to do something similar. I also wanted to show real consequences to the characters’ actions, especially once guns come into the story. There is a glorified gun culture in movies and in this country; I wanted to explore the effect, the aftermath."
About the shoot
Cianfrance: "We shot the film in Schenectady for 47 days, which was a long time given our budget. Because of my training in documentary film, it was important to me to shoot in real places – I felt strongly that it could only be made in Schenectady – and to surround the actors with real people as much as possible to give the film that sense of place and truth. So we shot in live locations: a functioning police station with Schenectady police officers, a working hospital with nurses and patients in the next room, an active fair with 500 people who we were counting on not to look into the camera lens, real banks with real bank tellers and bank managers who had been robbed before, and a high school with actual students. This was all to lend authenticity to the moments we were capturing. I asked everyone everywhere – cops, bank tellers, doctors, judges – to make sure that the scenes we were doing were true. And if I was told that they weren't, then I would rewrite scenes on the spot until we were being honest.
Research for the film
Cianfrance: "Ben Mendelsohn (who plays Luke's friend Robin) and I met with this guy who had robbed a half-dozen banks in Schenectady. Ben and I wanted to get an accurate perspective. So we asked the police in Schenectady if they could make an introduction. All of a sudden, they showed up at my office with a guy who was fresh out of prison and open with us about everything. I remember him saying, "The one thing movies get wrong is, bank robberies are messy in real life but in movies they are always perfect." So we also went to local banks and talked with people there, some of whom had been through robberies. I'd ask, "Tell me how it happened with you." Our guy from prison had done these robberies but...well, the word the people used was "nicely," so he'd served less time."
Cianfrance: "Hurricane Irene struck and Schenectady had its biggest floods in 500 years. The night before she hit, I moved my family out of the house where we were staying. The next morning the house was under 15 feet of water. We had to cancel production because our equipment trucks were submerged. When I found out that we had two days' worth of filmed footage on one of the trucks, I was beside myself – I've had film negative lost before. The camera department, led by first AC Ludovic Littee, took a canoe out to the truck and rescued our footage. We were back filming the next day."
Screenplay by Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder
Running time: 140 minutes