Ryan Gosling was incredible in this role but I found myself wanting to know more about his character's motivations. I thought I was going to LOVE this movie, and I finished it just sortof liking it. Ryan Gosling really carried the role amazingly well and his acting really improved the character (who I think would have benefited from some further dialog explaining his conflicts and perhaps his true feelings about his addiction and intentions to solve it). The ending is hopeful but really open-ended. After that much build-up I think it would have been more satisfying to see a real change in his character's mentality.
I was expecting a lot more growth from his character - the really sharp moment when Drey finds him in the hotel room was really rock-bottom for him - I was really hoping for his character to vocalize his embarrassment and shame, and to make a clear swing towards improvement. It kinda felt like Drey was doing all the work for him, and we get to the last scene where he shaves his scruffy beard and they tell a joke on the couch - I expected at least an apology from him or *something*. For so much hopeful build-up, I would have really expected his character to take a more concerted effort so as to not lose face in the eyes of his student. Rather, he still kept his complacent attitude all the way to the end of the film and it ended on a note that seemed hopeful, but didn't prove it to you.
Definitely an amazing acting job and some brilliant ideas in this movie, I just think Ryan Gosling really made the role, and the character could have been given a bit more intention and change in behaviour by the end of the film. If the intention is to show the benefit of the student-teaching-teacher relationship, I was wishing that the teacher showed that he truly learned something by the end of the film, and wasn't going to instantly fall into old habits in the next situation.