The United States of Leland

March 25th, 2005


The United States of Leland

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Tells the story of a young man's experience in a juvenile detention center that touches on the tumultuous changes that befall his family and the community in which he lives.

Release Year: 2003

Rating: 7.1/10 (12,401 voted)

Critic's Score: 37/100

Director: Matthew Ryan Hoge

Stars: Ryan Gosling, Don Cheadle, Kevin Spacey

After stabbing an autistic boy, the sixteen year old troubled and pessimist Leland P. Fitzgerald is sent to a juvenile detention. His teacher and aspirant writer Pearl Madison gets close and tries to understand him, first with intention of writing a book, and later becoming his friend. Leland slowly discloses his sad vision of world.

Don Cheadle - Pearl Madison
Ryan Gosling - Leland P. Fitzgerald
Chris Klein - Allen Harris
Jena Malone - Becky Pollard
Lena Olin - Marybeth Fitzgerald
Kevin Spacey - Albert T. Fitzgerald
Michelle Williams - Julie Pollard
Martin Donovan - Harry Pollard
Ann Magnuson - Karen Pollard
Kerry Washington - Ayesha
Sherilyn Fenn - Mrs. Calderon
Matt Malloy - Charlie
Wesley Jonathan - Bengel
Michael Peña - Guillermo
Michael Welch - Ryan Pollard

Taglines: Crime. Confusion. Compassion. They're all just states of mind.


Official Website: Media 8 Entertainment | Paramount Classics |

Release Date: 25 March 2005

Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California, USA

Opening Weekend: $48,384 (USA) (4 April 2004) (14 Screens)

Gross: $343,816 (USA) (11 July 2004)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | Canada: (Ontario)

Factual errors: In this movie, set in Arizona, all the cars shown have front and back license plates. However, in Arizona you are only issued two license plates if you have a personalized plate which none of the cars in the movie had.

Leland: You want a why. Well, maybe there isn't one. Maybe... Maybe this is just something that happened.

User Review

An extremely moving, touching, thought-provoking movie

Rating: 9/10

Leland Fitzgerald (Ryan Gosling) is sent to jail for the murder of an autistic kid. When pressured with the question 'Why?' he doesn't have an answer. While in jail he meets Pearl (Don Cheadle), his teacher, who decides to take matters into his own hands and helps Leland figure out why he did it. Throughout this film we learn all about Leland's troubled life, including his ex-girlfriend Becky(Jena Malone), his famous father Albert(Kevin Spacey)and his whole sad life.

This film is Matthew Ryan Hoge's second movie, and it is spectacular in nearly everyway. This is one movie which will leave you thinking in the end, and wondering about how it all works. The movie is quite dark, but if you can handle that then you will realize just how good a film it is.

In this movie, there is no bad guy. There is no one you can blame for anything that happens. There's no stereotyping, and the audience does not try to prove Leland guilty. Instead, we sit back, relax, and watch this boy's life unfold throughout the corse of the movie. All the problems depicted in the story are very real. Drug addiction, parental expectations, overwhelming sadness; they all exist in our world.

Ryan Gosling gives one of the greatest performances of his career in this movie, as the depressed teenager Leland. His father lives in Europe and doesn't really care much about his son. The only person he loves is Becky, but she has problems of her own. He knows exactly what he did, but as he says in the film, 'You want a why, but maybe there isn't one. Maybe this is something that just happened.' There is a why, but we don't find out about it until the end. As you watch the movie, the audience finds themselves amazed that such a young person could know so much about the world. Leland notices things that people tend to ignore.

A particular thought-provoking scene which really affected me was during one of Leland's conversations with Pearl. Pearl just cheated on his wife and when Leland asks why, Pearl replies that he's only human. Then Leland says something which never really occurs to anyone: "Why do people only say that when they've done something wrong?"

Another fantastic acting job was provided by Chris Klein. In the film he plays Allen Harris, the boyfriend of Becky's sister Julie (Michelle Williams). Although he is not one of the main characters, I found myself amazed at how deep his character was. You can relate to Allen a lot. You know how much he cares for the Pollard family. It's as if they were his own flesh and blood. By the end of the movie, you realize just how far he would go to help them.

Overall, this movie is a masterpiece which has been overlooked by quite a few people. If, however, you take the time to watch it, you will most likely see that everything I've mentioned above is true. And once you're finished watching it, you'll never look at the world the same way again.



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