Last night I watched The Place Beyond the Pines in the coziness of my den. Even though the film was directed by the very talented Derek Cianfrance and starred two of my very favorite actors (Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper), I chose not to see it when it played in theatres last March. I don’t know if it was the title or the poster of Gosling as a tattooed platinum blond biker who robs banks that turned me off, but I’m sure glad I got to watch the film. Though I found myself engrossed in the story from the beginning, I did not know where it was going until the last 10 minutes, and it did not come together for me until the last few frames, when Gosling’s son straddles a motorcycle and takes off into the sunset. In that moment I understood how much the kid, who had at last discovered the identity of his father and learned the circumstances of his death, needed to know who is father really was. Getting on that bike was as close as he could ever get to understanding and feeling him.
The ending resonated deeply within me, so much so that it kept me awake most of the night. I was tossing and turning, thinking about the film’s theme – the search for one’s identity––and how primal and urgent the need is to know who we really are. I thought of my own journey as I searched for my family’s roots and how it led me to write my novel. I thought of all the days, nights, weekends I labored over CITY OF THE SUN. It sucked all my time and took me away from family, friends and work. But I was obsessed with it. Nothing would stop me. I had to see it through.
The road to understanding, accepting and ultimately honoring who we are is different for each of us, but it’s a road we need to take to feel whole. How does the saying go? You can’t know where you are going until you know where you’ve been? Or something like that. Cliché perhaps, but then again, that’s why clichés are true.