After seeing The Place Beyond the Pines this past weekend I can say with confidence that Derek Cianfrance is one of my favorite writer/directors working today and I hope his partnership with Ryan Gosling lasts for a long time. Pines follows up the incredible work the pair did on Blue Valentine with another demanding character study that Gosling pulls off with a natural ease that manages to hide the part’s degree of difficulty. This piece from the NY Times, where Cianfrance provides commentary for the film’s opening sequence, will give you some idea of the dedication both actor and director bring to their work. The cast, which includes Eva Mendes, Mahershala Ali, Ben Mendelsohn, Dane DeHaan and Bradley Cooper, are all excellent with Cooper turning in another performance I would have never thought him capable of after seeing The Hangover. The film is broken into a triptych of related stories that feels closer to a good novel than a screenplay for A-list actors, full of emotional nuance and well chosen details. Cianfrance pairs his skills as a writer with an exciting and intuitive visual style that pulls you into the heart of each situation, whether a bank robbery or a conversation in a diner, with a well-trained eye for what makes good cinema. I was consistently impressed by this movie and left feeling quietly affected and in need of a stiff drink. I’ll be surprised if this isn’t in my Top 5 at the end of the year.