While driving from Ontario to Winnipeg, ex-con and drifter Alex Hughes picks up a 19-year-old hitchhiker named Vivienne, who is heading to Wawa. On the way, Alex's car is hit by a semi and Vivienne is killed. Wracked with guilt, he decides to visit her mother and apologize. What he doesn't realize is Vivienne's mother, Linda, is autistic.
This film provides examples of:
- The Atoner: Alex.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Linda, and Vivienne to a lesser extent.
- Deadpan Snarker: Alex. Then again, consider who's playing him.
- Description Porn: Linda's example for the word "Dazlious" while playing "Comic Book Word Scrabble". Doubles as a Moment of Awesome.
- Does Not Know How to Say "Thanks": The film is littered with instances where someone does something nice for Linda, and not only does she not say "thank you", but often she questions or criticizes the gesture because she doesn't understand social niceties to her, they're useless and nonsensical.
- Expy: Angela Pell wrote the screenplay with Alan Rickman in mind; in fact, Alex's name was originally "Alan". Rickman himself says that Alex is the character closest to his real personality: "Just someone doing the best he can". (Aside from the ex-con part, obviously.)
- Good Bad Girl: Maggie.
- Plucky Girl: Vivienne.
- Scrabble Babble: In Comic Book Word Scrabble.
- Silver Fox: Everyone tells the grey-haired Alex that either he or his voice is sexy.
- Take That!: On the way home from the coroner's, Alex and Linda run into Florence, one of Linda's flighty neighbors. When Linda says something a little less than appropriate, Alex begins to correct her until Florence tells him, "It's okay; I know all about autism. I've seen that movie." Less of a Take That! to Rain Man than it is to the staggering number of people who think that all autistics are Rain (Wo)Men.
- There Is a God!: Alex says it when Maggie offers him tea.