YOUNG poet Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) arrives at Columbia University in 1944 full of trepidation and wonder.
As a freshman, he is poorly versed in the social etiquettes of his new home but charismatic campus mate Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) takes Allen under his wing and introduces the newcomer to inner sanctums where other bright young things, including Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William S Burroughs (Ben Foster), intellectually spar with one another.
Sparks of sexual attraction between Ginsberg and Carr are continually extinguished by Lucien's relationship with one of the teachers, David Kammerer (Michael C Hall), who writes all of the student's essays.
That relationship deteriorates and when Lucien tells his lover that they must break up.
The subsequent emotional fallout has devastating repercussions for several university students, not least Allen.
John Krokidas' true crime thriller relives a dramatic page in history that brought together these brilliant young men in a white-hot crucible of raging hormones and creativity.
Radcliffe takes another confident step away from his iconic role as Harry Potter.
He really gets beneath the skin of the naive beat poet-to-be, whose education at Columbia University included a lesson in cold-blooded murder.
DeHaan is equally mesmerising as social limpet Lucien, who employs his sexuality as a weapon and uses it to manipulate those people closest to him.
First-time director Krokidas, who co-wrote the screenplay with Austin Bunn, evokes the smoke-filled rooms and youthful exuberance of the era with aplomb, cranking up tension as Allen is drawn into Lucien's web and jeopardises his university place for his friend.