Following from Blue Valentine, a tale of marital collapse, no one expected Derek Cianfrance's new film to be lighthearted. Opening with a bare-chested Ryan Gosling flicking a penknife open and closed while breathing heavily, I couldn't help but think "man o' man, he's just as broody as in Drive – this film can't get any better and I'm only five seconds in!" How wrong I was.

Delving into the troubled lives of motorcyclist stuntman Luke (Gosling) and novice cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), The Place Beyond the Pines draws parallels between the two men through their brief but pivotal encounter, and later, through their relationships with their sons.

Upon discovering he is the father to Romina's (Eva Mendes) newborn, Luke is hellbent on getting rich quick – and what better way than robbing banks? "If you ride like lighting you're going to crash like thunder" he's warned, but in true Cianfrance fashion, the warning goes unheeded and Avery brings Luke's bank robbing to an end in an intense police chase.

Fifteen years on we see the ramifications of the past played out through the men's sons as they grapple with the realisation that their fathers are not whom they appear to be. It's this penultimate scene that holds the most tension as the sons, played by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen, become friends – their fathers' histories unbeknownst to them. It's here where we begin to wonder: just how hard will the thunder crash?

Despite a distracting facial tattoo and wearing his t-shirt inside out, Gosling gives a stellar performance and is as smouldering as ever. Equally good, Cooper delivers his career-focused cop harbouring a dark secret perfectly. For me, it's DeHaan who shines brightest as Jason Glanton, Luke's son, as he shows us the only solace out there for a boy deprived of knowing his father is far from home; the place beyond the pines.

Oh, and for the men out there, in Mendes' first scene she's not wearing a bra. This film is fucking good.