BEYOND ALL LIMITS. Cinematografica Latino Americana, Mexico, 1959. Original title: Flor de mayo. Maria Felix, Jack Palance, Pedro Armendariz, Juan Muzquiz, Carlos Montalban, and Paul Stewart. Screenplay by Libertad Blasco Ibanez, from the novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez. Directed by Roberto Gavaldon.

   Just a Soap Opera, but like all good soaps it hovers at the edge of violence like a fly at a Venus Flytrap.

   Jack Palance (fittingly playing a character named Gatsby) returns to a Mexican fishing village where, six years earlier, he had an affair with the wife of a friend (Armendariz) doing a stretch in jail. To make a long flashback short: they got serious, he bailed, she had Jack’s kid and passed it off as Pedro’s.

   There’s a subplot about an illegal fishing venture that moves things along, but the story proper begins when Pedro stars counting the months and wonders if his boy is really his. We’re not supposed to wonder why it never occurred to him before, so I won’t. In fact, I didn’t want to, because Beyond All Limits accomplished that most essential function of fiction: the willing suspension of disbelief.

   Ibanez’ screenplay skillfully pivots between Palance, and Felix, filled with regret and longing; Armendariz, confused and compelled to reject the boy he loves as a son; and the boy (Muzquiz) convincing, not cloying, as he tries to figure out why the parents he loves seem so suddenly far away.

   Gavaldon’s direction lends an operatic air to the whole thing, backed by lush music (“And That Reminds Me”) that would have seemed silly in hands less deft. Here it swells under the simple passions of real-seeming people, and it works. There’s one small moment in particular when a minor character pleads with Armendariz to stand by his son. “I have no child. I never had a wife. My only family is yours and you are throwing it away.” Lines so simply and wrenchingly delivered that one feels a sense of what is really at the crux of this eternal triangle.