All that remains for Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella
) is to finish the novel he has been laboring on for almost ten years. With his four earlier books out of print, he has learned to starve himself of the desire for the success he was once so close to, though beneath this practice lives a pull for his work to be rediscovered. His solitary writer's life is shaken by the arrival of Heather (Lauren Ambrose
), an ambitious graduate student who persuades him that she can use her thesis to spur a rediscovery of his work.
But as her inquiry proceeds, Heather displays a profound personal interest in Leonard, which unsettles him and stirs up his long-dormant need for intimacy. Meanwhile, Leonard's daughter Ariel (Lili Taylor) reconnects with her ex-boyfriend Casey (Adrian Lester), a man Leonard firmly disapproves of. Leonard's encounters with Heather lead him down an unfamiliar path that threatens his writing, his health, and his relationship to his daughter. But in living out in the open, in the evening of his life Schiller puts into practice the core theme of his novels -- life is not designed for our comfort but for our struggle, for in struggle there is growth.