This Boy’s Life
director Michael Caton-Jones and star Robert De Niro reunite for another melodramatic reenactment of conflicted, fractured fatherhood. New York detective Vincent LaMarca (De Niro steaming up windows with a low-key smolder) was a pre-teen when his father was executed for the death of a child during a kidnapping. He revisits the trauma and agony of his childhood and confronts his own failure as a parent when he investigates a drug-related murder in which his estranged junkie son (James Franco) has been implicated. The story, inspired by a provocative 1997 Esquire article, is strengthened by De Niro’s challenged stoicism as gritty, gnawing realism is gradually overwhelmed by contrived plot points and a father-son confrontation that feels both forced and flowery. The supporting cast includes a menacing William Forsythe as a violent dope peddler, the excellent Frances McDormand as LaMarca’s girlfriend and a trash-strewn Asbury Park, New Jersey, as Long Beach, Long Island.