Tight-lipped Englishman Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman
) arrives in Northern Ontario on his way to meet the woman with whom he’s had a son. He’s bullied by an altogether unconventional but lovable 19-year-old hitchhiker Vivienne (Emily Hampshire
) into giving her a ride to her hometown of Wawa. When the car is hit by a truck on the outskirts of her home town, Vivienne dies instantly. Alex finds himself, for the second time in his life, grieving for someone he never knew.
Shocked and stranded in snowbound Wawa, Alex is drawn to seek out Vivienne’s mother, to talk to her in person about the fate of her daughter. He also goes armed with trinkets and children’s amusements that Vivienne has picked up along the way for her mother. Alex knocks on the door and comes face to face with Linda Freeman (Sigourney Weaver). Linda is no ordinary Mother.
Alex soon becomes aware that Linda is an adult autistic, albeit a high-functioning one. He becomes increasingly involved in Linda’s life and the community to which she feels complete indifference, in large part because of her condition. Linda in turn becomes attached – as attached as she is emotionally capable of – to Alex and what he can do for her.
Alex also forms a relationship with Linda’s sassy independent neighbour Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss), and is the object of scrutiny by the ineffectual local law enforcement officer Clyde (James Allodi), who, besides being jealous of Alex’s relationship with Maggie, believes he’s discovered a dark secret in Alex’s past.