When the Twin Towers went down in 2001, Charlie Fineman lost everything important in his life. Five years have passed since Charlie’s wife and daughters died, and now the once-successful and sociable man has become a withdrawn shadow of his former self. He does not discuss his loss, causing his in-laws to worry for his sanity, believing that he has struck the tragedy from his mind.
When fate brings Charlie and his former college roommate Alan Johnson together once again on a Manhattan street corner, Alan is shocked to see just how far his old friend has fallen. Charlie’s hair is long and he wears a headset constantly to let music drown out any mentions of his wife and children.
Though on the surface it would appear that Alan, a successful dentist, has it all, the pressures of a family and career have been weighing heavily on him. At a pivotal moment when Charlie and Alan both need a trusted friend, the restorative power of a rekindled friendship provides a lifeline needed to move forward.
Alan endeavors to bring Charlie out of his shell by convincing him to see a therapist. Charlie is barely communicative, however, ending every session after only a couple of minutes. His therapist says he needs to tell the story about his family to someone eventually. Charlie soon tells Alan his tragic story, but afterwards tries to commit suicide by cop and ends up in a psych ward.
Legal proceedings commence, and Judge David Raines (Donald Sutherland) must determine whether to commit Charlie to psychiatric care against his will. The judge leaves the decision to Charlie’s in-laws, asking them to think of what their daughter would want for Charlie. He approaches his in-laws in the lobby of the courthouse, stating that he does not carry pictures nor discuss his family because he sees them every day, in the faces of people walking down the street. They decide that he should not be committed; instead, Charlie moves to a new apartment, leaving behind the painful memories associated with his former home. At the end of the film, Alan visits Charlie for the day and his wife calls and tells him “I love you and just want you to come home.” The apartment’s doorman brings out Charlie’s scooter, and tells Alan not to leave stuff lying around. Alan tells the doorman to take it back upstairs, but the doorman does not respond. Not knowing what to do, Alan decides to ride home on the scooter.