The first of these releases, The Place Beyond the Pines, is director Derek Cianfrance's dramatic followup to his excellent (and under-appreciated) 2010 indie Blue Valentine. It's three tales of fathers and sons, the first focusing on traveling stuntman Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) returning home to Schenectady, New York (from where the film gets its name) and discovering that an old girlfriend has given birth to a baby boy. His baby boy. Giving up his stunt gig, he struggles to find a living wage while trying to be there for the son he didn't know he had, eventually robbing banks to try and support his estranged family. That leads him into conflict with police officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), who is also balancing his love of being a police officer with his disdain for the rampant corruption in the department. Each man tries to provide for the futures of their infant sons, and their decisions will have dramatic repercussions in their childrens' lives.
Mud isn't far behind it, though the pedigree of writer/director Jeff Nichols certainly isn't as renowned as that of Cianfrance. Fans at least will point to 2011's apocalyptic thriller Take Shelter as proof of his talent, though I admit I have yet to see that particular film. But if Nichols' talent is anything close to what he displays here, that film may be due for a rental. Mud is the story of two Arkansas youths (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) who investigate an empty island looking for a small boat that supposedly washed up in the last flood. What they find instead is Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a man on the run from the law and awaiting the arrival of his girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Running low on food and supplies, Mud asks the boys for assistance in getting things he cannot go into town to get and to reconnect with Juniper. Meanwhile, both the law and a gang of vigilantes hunting Mud are moving in, and the two boys might be getting in way over their heads.