Walking out of “The Place Beyond the Pines” on Saturday evening, I felt dazed—the kind of feeling you get when you first step off a rollercoaster onto solid ground.

Several days later, I still feel adrift when I think about the film. And while this sensation usually makes me want to see a movie again, this one was so intense that it might just be the first Gosling flick that I don’t watch ad infinitum (yes, “Remember the Titans” included).

“The Place Beyond the Pines”—which should really be called “The Place Where Everyone is Covered in Paint Splatters and Has Daddy Issues”—opens with the story of the bulked-and-tatted-up Ryan Gosling as Luke Glanton, the motorcycle-riding stuntman with a heart of gold that Gosling plays best. And did, in “Drive.” Like, a year ago.

When Luke’s once-fling Romina (Eva Mendes) shows up unexpectedly and reveals that she is raising his one-year-old son, Luke commits to turning his life around to support them. Perhaps due to his thrill-seeking nature, Luke chooses bank robbery as his M.O., which leaves his and his family’s fates to that of Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), the idealistic law-student-turned-cop who tries to take Luke down.

It would be almost impossible to assess this film without revealing further plot developments, so I will do my best to keep a happy medium between vague and spoiler-alert.

“Pines” has three distinct chapters, and while they are clearly interrelated, by the time the third one rolled around 90 minutes into the movie, I just didn’t care anymore. It was too late to get emotionally invested in the plethora of new characters and stories, especially when this final chapter—a clear attempt to resolve the politics and loose ends of the first two—felt half-assed and unsure of its own message.

It is as if the filmmakers knew that there was a point to the story, wanted badly to make it, but never quite figured out what exactly it was.

In stitching together these three vignettes, which cover a total of 15 years, the filmmakers took on too much. Each story could (and in the case of the first, should) have been extrapolated into a film unto itself. In chopping each down to 45 minutes, the filmmakers cut themselves short of creating something truly meaningful.

Despite the overall sensation of what I would characterize as cinematic blue balls, I am still haunted by certain aspects of “Pines,” and I’m not just talking about the obligatory Bon Iver song that concludes any self-respecting indie flick.

All biases aside, Ryan Gosling is truly the star of the show. In spite of the “heartthrob” tattoo across his neck and his remarkable ability to make skull-covered parachute pants look good, Gosling is more than just eye candy. And for reasons that I won’t divulge, this is rather problematic for a good portion of the film.

Gosling keeps Luke interesting without overacting and discards his maddeningly brooding “Drive” temperament, making him the most lovable absentee dad in history. Luke is likable yet frustrating, sweet yet impulsive.

The complexity of its characters was one of the film’s greatest strengths. There is Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), who is the definition of creep as he watches Luke bike through a desolate forest but whose inner cool uncle shines through at the same time (the kind of cool uncle who hands you a gun and tells you to commit a felony, that is).

Bradley Cooper’s performance is less impressive than his cohorts, though this is largely because the script gives him little to work with to justify his naïve idealism and simultaneously conflicted course of action. Although I was less moved by Cooper’s character, his central narrative is absorbing enough to keep him afloat and keep the viewer genuinely engaged.

“The Place Beyond the Pines” sought to be a profound tour de force spanning generations and it would have benefited from narrowing its focus and catching itself on its many heavy-handed, sanctimonious parallels.

Nevertheless, I find myself constantly mulling over what the film was trying to say and what the sum of its parts could have achieved. Perhaps this is just the challenge that the filmmakers meant to pose.