movie trailer (apple.com - quicktime)
NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by Apothecary who says...
" It's been a while since we've seen a movie like this - reminded me a little of 'Ordinary People' but set in today's suburbs which are considerably more chaotic than back then." "The characters aren't as compelling, but I enjoyed it anyways."
The movie begins with showing us how Matt (Kip Pardue) is a swimming hero, to both the public and his dad alike. We then come across Tim (Emile Hirsch), his younger brother, who comes across Matts dead body in his bedroom after Matt shoots himself in the head.
The family grieves in their own little way in the weeks following the tragedy. Tim tries to resume his life its obvious he never had much of a connection with his brother and he cant understand why. He keeps getting bugged by his girlfriend about some bruising on his body and he hates being questioned about it. At a party, where theyre planning to finally do it for the first time, the bruises again come to the attention of his girlfriend and he storms off to sulk in his car, while his girlfriend sobs, when the school bully comes up to her, taunting her and implying that he was the one who beat up Tim.
The party gets raided and while attempting to speed out of the driveway, Tim and his friend Kyle are involved in an accident that results in a broken leg for Tim. Its in the hospital that his mum Sandy (Sigourney Weaver) finds out that someones been hurting her son and from the girlfriend, she thinks its the school bully so she marches over to his place and threatens him.
We also learn how Sandy has a long-running feud with her neighbour, whose son Kyle is best friends with Tim. Sandy succumbs to smoking pot as a way of coping, while the dad, Ben (Jeff Daniels) retreats into his shell, and insists that a place be set for Matt at the table, with a fully-served plate and everything. Theres much tension between Tim and his dad, the source of which we find out later. The sister (Michelle Williams) doesnt feature much in the movie, kind of signifying how shes stopped featuring in their family after the tragedy.
The weeks turn into months; Bens stopped working, instead whiling away his days at a bench in the park, Tim and Kyle are up to their usual mischief even during community service and Sandy has an escapade: she tries to buy pot, gets caught and is bailed out by a guy who hits on her at the supermarket. Supermarket guy appears quite a bit: first in the hospital as a suicide attemptee, then as a recovering depression-patient (hence the supermarket job) and then finally as the sisters boyfriend. This is when Sandy finds out about Bens lack of a job. The distance between husband and wife become apparent during the New Years party the sister and her boyfriend make out, everyones making out except them, as the New Year chimes in; even Tim and Kyle get it on (yes, you read that right!).
The next morning, Tim and Kyle are both mortified, and in denial about what happened, blaming it on the ecstasy theyd taken the night before. What is significant about this is just before Tim wakes up, we see him having a nightmare about being beaten up by Matt, his brother. This is when we begin to realize the cause of his bruising. When they go back to school, Kyle avoids Tim, until Tim is again attacked by the school bully whos POd about being blamed for the bruises. Kyle walks in and sees Tims bloody face and takes off after the bully, pouncing on him threatening him as if possessed. Later, it seems that they are ok with each other.
As for Sandy, shes not feeling so good and its obvious that her cigarette habit may be catching up with her. In one confrontation with her mortal enemy of a neighbour, (whos angry that the feud seems to have spilled over to their boys friendship), we realize that Sandy blames her for her familys uneasy state of affairs. As it turns out, Sandy had a fling with the neighbours husband years ago (and who has long since taken off and abandoned his family), and the neighbour told Ben; nothings been the same since (hint hint we get an inkling of another revelation). Anyways, they reach an uneasy truce that particular day. A little later, the neighbour decides to fix a friendly drink for the two of them but comes across Sandy passed out. Shes taken to the hospital, leaving a note for the family. Tim doesnt see the note on his fridge, this being the day he gets punched out by the school bully as well as a war veteran (quite funny, actually) and takes something to take the edge off the pain.
Ben comes home, sees the note, jolts Tim awake and both race to the hospital. Some tension-filled days later, Ben has done some soul-searching: he makes a resolution to pull himself together, pull his family together and tells Sandy this. He tells her he realizes how detached hes become when he doesnt even know who his remaining kids are, has nothing to talk to them about at the dinner table, and we can tell that this is beginning to eat at him. Sandy isnt too optimistic about her condition, thinking that the tests are going to reveal something awful, but turns out its some sort of pneumonia. The doctor tells Ben he needs to start taking care of his wife, reiterating what Ben already realizes.
In the midst of all this (Im not sure exactly when), Sandy gets her hands on Tims journal and is taken aback when she finds it filled with gibberish, page after page. She mentions to Ben that they need to tell Tim something. She gets better and is released, and a few days later, she tells Tim, about her affair with the neighbours husband (Kyles dad), and that Tim was born of that affair, and that is why Tim has always complained of never feeling like a part of the family, why hes always encountered hostility from Matt and Ben. Tim is shaken by this he takes off drinking and when he returns home, he finds his dad has also gotten his hands on his journal filled with gibberish. He demands it back from Ben, and Ben expresses concern over the non-sensical contents of the journal, but Tim launches into an emotional tirade of how he knows, and how he hates Ben, and how he never wants to have anything to do with him; Ben just pulls him close and hugs him fiercely, telling him that as far as he, Ben, is concerned, Tim is his son and he would like to get to know him better.
Cut to Tim and Kyle graduating from high school; the family has made up, the neighbour and Sandy have made up and, after a brutally honest (emphasis on brutally!), but very funny end-to-a-speech by the valedictorian, the families walk home, all at peace with themselves and each other.