The Place Beyond The Pines is perhaps the most eagerly awaited acquisition title of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. And Friday night it premiered to an enthusiastic reception from a sold-out crowd. With stars Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes lighting up the Princess of Wales theatre’s Red Carpet, there was much anticipation about this unique crime thriller from director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine also starring Gosling). At the 19 Mercer Street after-party, producer Jamie Patricof (Lynette Howell and Alex Orlovsky co-produced with him for Sidney Kimmel Productions) told me they have kept this film under lock and key until the TIFF showing. Because no one had seen it, a lot of distributors were in the audience eager to get a look. Patricof and helmer Cianfrance both said they are looking for a company who is most passionate about the film. Whether it gets out this year (in time for the Oscar race) or later is secondary to that. Cianfrance did add that his natural inclination is always to “have the film out tomorrow” if he could.

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A snap poll of reaction after the screening indicated the film had true impact. There’s no doubt buyers will be circling this one – and snapping it up fast. Clearly the movie has a lot of marketing potential with Gosling and Cooper in the leads. Gosling  said that working with Cianfrance “has changed my life and changed me as an actor”. He plays a bank robber and said he always had a fantasy about making his getaway by riding a motorcycle into a U-Haul truck which was incorporated here. Cooper might have the most difficult role. “But I was ferocious in wanting to work with these two guys. It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had acting,” he said.

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It’s difficult to describe this compelling film without revealing a lot of spoilers. Suffice it to say that Cianfrance said his initial inspiration was Hitchcock and created an unusual three-act structure in which one actor essentially hands the film off to another. But the movie with its strong themes and emphasis on character reminded me more of Sidney Lumet than Hitchcock. It’s a very tricky thing to pull off but judging by the standing ovation from the crowd, Cianfrance has done it. The director was about to become a father again when he began this project in 2007. “It just came to me to make a movie about legacy and what it means to be a father,”  he told the crowd after the film ended. Playing kids, Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen basically carry the final third of the film and are standouts, particularly DeHaan who looks like a young Leonardo DiCaprio.