Hard-living, ex-con Joe hires teenage Gary and his destitute father into his "tree-poisoning" crew for a lumber company. Joe sees in Gary a determination, raw decency and a sense of resilience that he barely believes possible. Gary has had nothing in life, has never spent a day in school, yet something drives him to take care of his family, protect his sister from his father's ugly moods and hope for a better future. Joe and Gary forge an unlikely bond. When Gary finds himself facing a threat greater than he knows how to handle, he turns to Joe - and sets off a chain of events that play out with the brutal inevitability of tragedy and the beauty of a last stab at salvation.