Set in an unnamed U.S. urban center, the film uses a nonlinear structure to piece together the intertwined lives of three very different people. Paul (Sean Penn) is a math teacher with a heart problem and a troubled marriage to British wife Mary (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Christine (Naomi Watts) is a former drug addict who lives with her husband, Michael (Danny Huston), and her daughters. Jack (Benicio del Toro) is a born-again Christian with a wife (Melissa Leo) who has stood by him since his days as a criminal. Following a tragic accident, the three main characters are thrown into each other's lives.