The film moves fluidly back and forth between the two time periods, with the young Wilson creating the 'Pet Sounds' and 'Smile' albums even as cracks in his psyche begin to show, intimating that the very mental vulnerabilities that would overwhelm him were also instrumental in his musical talent, while the old Wilson finds romance with Melinda Ledbetter, played by Elizabeth Banks, as she struggles to free him from the exploitative care of Dr. Landy, played by Paul Giamatti, who is only interested in capitalizing on Wilson's fame.
The film inevitably wades through familiar territory (child abuse, drug abuse, mental illness, the misunderstood artist, etc.) in this kind of story, however Love & Mercy manages to make all this feel fresh due to the uniquely structured and expertly implicit script by Oren Moverman and a pair of inspired performances by Paul Dano and John Cusack. (Side note: It's nice to see Cusack in a good film for a change). I came to this story with no knowledge of Wilson's life or the making of the Beach Boys' music and the story of this frighteningly sensitive and sweet musician broke my heart.