In a rural town, choir teacher and single parent Lisa Harper finds out her teenage daughter Carolyn went out with a boy and never came home. Fearing the worst, Lisa loses her grip on reality.
Carolyn's three friends Joanna, Laurel and Charlotte struggle to deal with their friends' disappearance as well as their own personal dramas. Joanna is forced to find money through illegitimate means due to her mother's mental instability. Laurel must come to terms both with her homosexuality and Charlotte is a frequent target for bullies, one of whom is Laurel's brother who secretly pines for her.On top of all this, Joanna's father has lost his job as a party clown and is sleeping with Laurel's mother.
Not to be confused with Knives Out, which also deals with a family member dying.
- Adult Fear: The very first scene is with Carolyn making out with school jock Andy in the middle of nowhere. When Carolyn tells Andy she's not going to have sex with him, he kicks her out and drives off. Carolyn loses her glasses in the commotion, sustains a nasty head injury and her last lines are a very frightened "Please! Help me!".
- Bittersweet Ending: Lisa, Joanna, Charlotte and Laurel all find closure in Carolyn's death and get on with their lives.
- Bookends: Carolyn loses her trademark glasses at the start of the film and they're eventually returned to her mother by the end.
- Ephebophile: Lisa makes out with Andy out of anxiety and the English teacher tries to kiss Joanna.
- Everytown, America: The setting is described as mid-west America.
- Freaky Fashion, Mild Mind: Charlotte has a rather extravagant fashion sense, yet is quite introverted.
- Jerk Jock: Andy. He treats girls as nothing more than sex objects.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Laurel is conventionally feminine, along with her new girlfriend.
- Missing White Woman Syndrome: Played with. Carolyn's disappearance is treated as a big deal for a few days, then everyone bar Lisa seemingly stops caring and deals with their own character arcs.
- Sanity Slippage: Lisa does not cope with Carolyn's disappearance at all. She starts wearing her clothes, crying during rehearsals, destroys her daughter's room and makes out with Andy.
- Can you hear them?They talk about usTelling lies, well that's no surpriseCan you see them?See right through themThey have no shieldNo secrets to revealIt doesn't matter what they sayIn the jealous games people playOur lips are sealed