Detachment is a chronicle of one month in the lives of several high school teachers, administrators and students through the eyes of a substitute teacher named Henry Barthes. Barthes’ method of imparting vital knowledge to his temporary students is interrupted by the arrival of three women in his life—the damaged and naive prostitute Erica, a fellow teacher, and a troubled teen named Meredith (Betty Kaye). These women all have profound effects on Barthes’ life, forcing him to both re-discover aspects of his own personality, and to come to terms with both the tragic suicide of his mother and the impending death of his grandfather. The film is punctuated with flashbacks of scenes of Barthes’ young childhood and his mother’s suicide.
Sub-plots include the struggles of Dr. Parker within her role as the school counselor and the painful torment of Principal Dearden, who faces her dismissal as head of this deeply flawed school.