The film’s events take place in the 1960s, and it focuses on Jeannette and Jerry Brinson, who recently moved to Great Falls, Montana, with their teenage son Joe. The tensions between the two spouses are exacerbated when Jerry is kicked out of his place and after a while he is invited to return to work, but from too much pride he refuses to do so.
Moreover, instead of looking for another job, he sleeps in the car and watches as local firefighters struggle to extinguish a great forest fire that devastates the nearby mountains. To support her family while Jerry is “looking for” a job, Jeannette is engaged as a swimming instructor, and Joe is working at a local photography studio. One day, Jerry decides to temporarily engage fire-fighting firefighters, and this upsets his wife and worries Joe.
Jeannette talks openly to Joe about the problems she has with her father and the difficulties of the couple’s marriage, and the stress and the precarious situation in the family put a slight footprint on Joe’s school results. While Jerry is gone, Jeannette begins a romantic relationship with one of her students, Warren Miller, a more prosperous older man than she owns a car sales company. Joe is left alone at home repeatedly while Jeannette spends time with Miller, at first under the pretense of being hired.

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