This beautiful film tells the story of two flawed men, played by Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, whose parallel lives intersect in tragedy, causing a rippling effect that spans into the next generation.
4 Stars: Perfect for people who've ever struggled to understand their fathers
The opening shot of the film is one intense motorcycle ride where we follow Luke (Ryan Gosling) into a traveling circus' Cage of Doom. There, Luke defies death as he rides upside down in circles, tempting gravity, much to the savage pleasure of the onlookers.
After the show, Luke is approached by the alluring Romina (Eva Mendes). It's been a year since they've seen each other, and their chemistry is still strong. He gives Romina a ride home on his bike, but she declines his offer to get a drink with him. She tells him she has somebody now and that she just wanted to see him again.
Before he ships out with the circus, Luke drops by Romina's house to find her mother holding a blond baby. Turns out, the baby is the result of Luke and Romina's one-night stand, and Luke is stunned.
Looking for direction, purpose and maybe even love, Luke quits the circus and decides he wants to take care of his son. But for this tattooed, minimally educated dude, providing financial support is harder than it looks.
Luke turns to robbing banks, only to meet with a disaster of his own making. Enter police officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a man who also has an infant son and who views good and bad in black and white.
After taking a bullet from Luke, Avery is hailed as a local hero. However, life on the police force isn't simple, even for a hero.
It's not until 15 years later, when Luke's son, Jason (Dane DeHaan), befriends Avery's son, AJ (Emory Cohen), in high school, that the story comes full circle in a startling way.
Bottom line: Ryan Gosling gives a sparse, electric performance. It's so good, in fact, that we almost wish the story had stayed focused on Luke. But this story, like life, moves forward and deliciously reveals the results of two fathers' best intentions.
The runtime of The Place Beyond the Pines is 2 hours, 20 minutes. The film's release date is March 29.