THERE’S an early moment in this, the fourth cinematic version of this particular archetypal rise-to-fame story, when we first see Lady Gaga performing in all her glory. Bradley Cooper watches on from among the crowd, star struck by someone yet to go stratospheric but who he feels in his bones is destined for lofty status. It’s a key moment that sees the film lock its considerable gaze on the audience and it doesn’t let you out of it.

Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a successful rock musician who balances out his fame and fortune with a bottle of whisky every day. One night after a gig he stumbles into a bar where his eye is caught by Lady Gaga’s waitress Ally who moonlights as a singer, dreaming of bigger things but almost at the point of giving up that it will ever happen for her.

Recognising the raw talent in her voice and the magnetism she exhibits when performing, Jackson takes her on as a protégé by inviting her to perform her own songs on stage with him. It’s a prospect that terrifies her at first:

“I don’t sing my own songs. I just don’t feel comfortable. Almost every single person has told me they like the way I sounded but they didn’t like the way I look.”

As the two grow closer while out on the road touring, Ally starts to find the fame she always dreamed of while Jackson deals with both the idea of her becoming a bigger star than him and his increasingly damaging alcohol dependency.

It’s a film fuelled by many things, all in ways that work so seamlessly that you don’t even notice the magic trick it’s performing. The two leads are captivating, two opposites contrasting on the surface and beautifully attracting at their essence to create a love story which feels entwined with the stunningly showcased music that runs through its veins.

Lady Gaga is mesmerising as Ally in a performance that feels almost like a decoding of her own real life persona while at the same time never once seeming like a distracting piece of stunt casting.

Through her character’s upward journey to fame the film deftly examines the very idea of what stardom is, particularly in today’s short-attention-span, social-media-obsessed world, and the importance of finding a truthful voice that allows it to be sustained beyond a flash-in-the-pan success.

Lady Gaga finds nuance and a rawness that’s really compelling to watch while scenes of her belting out impossible notes – particularly the film’s show-stopping signature song Shallow – makes the world around melt away. Cooper, on the other hand, conjures up grizzled and authentic emotional power where overwrought cliché might have swallowed up the drama.

His uncommonly precise direction right out of the gate gives the film both a sense of immediacy and authenticity, whether it’s the up-close-and-personal depiction of the central relationship or the way in which he puts us right there on stage during the live recorded performances, gazing out with daunting views at the crowds.

Cooper’s debut behind the camera is a tremendous piece of work, soulful, honest and heart-breaking in the way it goes about telling a story that is at its core familiar but in ways that make it feel like you’re hearing the tune for the very first time. Even in the film’s second half, when it delves deeper into the darker trials and tribulations of the lives it depicts, the narrative notes always strike a chord of emotional honesty.