Once there was a young prince whose father, the king of the East, sent him down into Egypt to find a pearl. But when the prince arrived, the people poured him a cup. Drinking it, he forgot he was the son of a king, forgot about the pearl and fell into a deep sleep.

Rick’s father used to read this story to him as a boy. Rick (Christian Bale) is now a comedy writer living in present-day Santa Monica. He longs for something other, something beyond the life he knows, without knowing quite what it is, or how to go about finding it. He doesn’t know which way to turn.

The death of his brother, Billy, hangs over him like a shadow. His father, Joseph (Brian Dennehy), bears a sense of guilt for Billy’s death. A surviving brother, Barry (Wes Bentley), down on his luck, has just moved to LA from where they grew up, in Missouri. Rick has been helping him get back on his feet.

Rick seeks distraction in the company of women: Della (Imogen Poots); Nancy (Cate Blanchett), a physician he was once married to; a model named Helen (Freida Pinto); Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a woman he made pregnant; a stripper named Karen (Teresa Palmer); and a young woman who helps him to see his way forward, Isabel (Isabel Lucas).

Knight of Cups is out in cinemas today.