"The Place Beyond The Pines" is a complex drama with three parallel plots telling three interlocking stories. Each is about an individual's choice, and the truth or consequences that result, depending on the choices made.

"Pines" is an indie film crime caper that is of chief interest for its clever if somewhat convoluted screenplay and a bevy of stellar performances by some of the United States' best hot young movie stars.

"The Place Beyond The Pines," directed by Derek Cianfrance ("Blue Valentine," 2010), who co-wrote the screenplay with Ben Coccio ("Zero Day," 2003) and Darius Marder ("Loot," 2008 documentary), is about heartland America, social classes, economic distress and lifestyle choices.

The three stories take place in upstate New York, where a motorcycle stunt rider is performing with a carnival that has put up its tents, midway and rides in Schenectady.

Luke (Ryan Gosling), the stunt driver, is a devil-may-care, emotionally-cauterized, brutish charmer who visits Romina (Eva Mendes), a girlfriend who reveals to him belatedly that he is the father of their son.

Luke does the right thing. He quits the carnival life and finds a place to stay at the backwoods trailer of a mechanic, Robin (Bruce Mendelsohn).

Then, Luke does the wrong thing. Instead of trying to be gainfully-employed, Luke comes under the influence of Robin, who says he has held up banks.

They hatch a plot whereby Luke dons his motorcycle outfit and helmet and uses his expertise to zoom away from the bank job on his off-road motorcycle and scoots up a ramp into a waiting box truck, driven by Robin.

This gets to be habit-forming for the knuckleheaded duo and more bank heists follow. To complicate matters, Luke has a run-in with Kofi (Mahershala Ali), Romina's live-in boyfriend

Soon, Luke is the object of a manhunt by the local police, led by Avery (Bradley Cooper). We won't play spoiler to let you know what this plot thread leads to. We won't reveal the circumstances of Avery's encounter with Luke.

Suffice it to say, choices are made, there's a gray area and the police department's internal affairs division gets involved.

Nonetheless, Avery is heralded as a "hero cop." One of his colleagues, Deluca (Ray Liotta), thinks there may be more to Romina's story and enlists Avery and other police officers in a whole other kind of "investigation." You might say: "follow the money."

This leads to further complications at the police department, which causes Avery to again make local TV news headlines. This further stokes his political ambitions and he decides to run for county district attorney.

Faster than you can say "fast-forward," a title card flashes on the screen that states: "18 Years Later."

Avery is running for re-election as DA. He is divorced from his wife, Jennifer (Rose Byrne). Their son, AJ (Emory Cohen, TV's "Smash"), moves from Troy, N.Y., to live with him. AJ is a drug-addled teen and bad news. As a new high school student, he falls in with Jason (Dane DeHaan, Emmaus High School graduate), who happens to be the son of Romina and Avery.

Again, there are choices, and the two teen boys make the wrong ones.

If you're a fan of Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen and Ray Liotta, you will want to see "The Place Beyond the Pines." It's the kind of indie film that allows actors, who might otherwise be restricted by more mainstream material, to really show their actor chops. The actors in "The Place Beyond the Pines" don't disappoint. Their performances are interior-driven and contemplative.

Cianfrance directs in a matter-of-fact, no frills, almost documentary style. "The Place Beyond the Pines" has several big set pieces that might be more typical of big-budget Hollywood films, including nail-biting, tension-filled "Dog Day Afternoon" style bank heists and "French Connection" inspired white-knuckle police and criminal chase scenes amidst gritty, realistic and unglamorous acting typical of indie films.

"The Place Beyond the Pines" is the kind of film that allows Cianfrance, as he did with "Blue Valentine," to explore the vagaries of American life in the 21st century.

The result is a challenging and thought-provoking movie-going experience.

Go to "The Place Beyond the Pines" to examine choices and discover the difference between truth and consequences.

"The Place Beyond the Pines," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian) for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference; Genre: Crime, Drama; Run time: 2 hrs., 20 mins.; Distributed by Focus Features.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "The Place Beyond the Pines" was filmed in and around Schenectady, N.Y.

Box Office, April 26: "Pain & Gain" opened at No. 1, with a low $20 million, pushing "Oblivion" to No. 2, $17.4 million, $64.7 million, two weeks;

3. "42," $10.7 million, $69 million, three weeks; 4. "The Big Wedding," $7.5 million, opening; 5. "The Croods," $6.6 million, $163 million, six weeks; 6. "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," $3.6 million, $116.3 million, five weeks; 7. "Scary Movie 5," $3.4 million, $27.4 million, three weeks; 8. "Olympus Has Fallen," $2.7 million, $93 million, six weeks; 9. "The Place Beyond the Pines," $2.6 million, $16.2 million, five weeks; 10. "Jurassic Park 3D," $2.3 million, $42 million, $397 million (since 2D opening 1993), four weeks

Unreel, May 3: Let the summer movie season begin earlier than ever, of course.

"Iron Man 3," PG-13: Robert Downey Jr. is back for a third go-round as Tony Stark, who this time faces a terrorist known as the Mandarin (go-to bad guy Ben Kingsley wait a minute didn't he play that saintly guy "Gandhi," for which he won an actor Oscar in 1983?). Gwyneth Paltrow is back as Tony Stark's paramour, Pepper Potts. Also look for Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle and Rebecca Hall in the sci-fi-action thriller.

"The Iceman," R: The based-on-a-true-story movie tells the tale of Richard Kuklinski, a contract killer. When arrested in 1986, his wife and daughters were said to have no idea about his line of, ahem, work. James Franco, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, Winona Ryder and David Schwimmer star in the crime drama.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, lehighvalleypress. com; the Times-News web site, tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes