So Luke tries to insinuate himself in his son’s life, but this causes problems with Romina’s man, in whose house she and Jason reside. Luke manages to get a lot of money illegally, purely to support his son, but has no clue about how his intrusion is regarded. When he goes way over the line with Romina, she lets him know she doesn’t want to see him ever again. Luke is hurt/enraged, and wants to act out his anger by unwisely continuing the illegal activity, which does not end up well for him. “If you ride like lightnin’, you crash like thunder”, his friend tells him, prophetically.
A parallel story is told about a police officer Avery (Bradley Cooper) who becomes a hero when he shoots a criminal and is injured in the process. Much of the story in the film is about how these two families (Luke and son and Avery and son) are connected, some of which is through conscious planning and conscientious behavior and some is coincidental. The coincidental part gives a strong sense of determinism about life. The motivation for compassion likely stems from guilt as much as wanting to do the right thing.
Cianfrance is masterful in weaving all the elements of the story together into a comprehensive whole, and the 2½ hours fly by with the audience on the edge of their seats. The ending is surprising in some respects, but sagely does not tie everything up into neat ribbons. There is relief, but also wonder about what happens to these individuals we have come to know so well.
The actors are well cast and do the fine story justice. Other aspects such as the music (Mike Patton) and cinematography (Sean Bobbitt) likewise help make this a must-see film. Grade: A