Mud: Two boys (Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland) try to help a fugitive (Matthew McConaughey) reunite with the love of his life (Reese Witherspoon). This serious, classically constructed film is an electric riposte to the shaky-cam snarksters who've overtaken American independent cinema.
-- Kimberley Jones
The Place Beyond the Pines: A cash-strapped stuntman (Ryan Gosling) becomes a bank robber, and an eager cop (Bradley Cooper) tries to put him behind bars. A multigenerational epic, a heist story and a motorcycle-fetish movie all rolled into one, this film proves that director Derek Cianfrance is an emerging auteur.
-- Leah Churner