MARGARET DIMITRI is 49 and attractive, but her subdued clothes and unstyled hair reveal a desire to be inconspicuous. Margaret is the emotionally-fragile, submissive wife of ALEX, a ruggedly-handsome author who achieved world-wide fame and fortune by creating a fictional secret agent character. While Alex was always gregarious and sociable, Margaret was cold and analytical, qualties that served her well as a scientist performing experiments on laboratory animals. He wanted a family but not until his dreams of being a successful author were realized. But intimacy was difficult for Margaret after being sexually abused by her father when she was a young girl. Alex supported Margaret during her stays in mental institutions which led to her drug dependancy. During one of these emotional breakdowns, Margaret performs an abortion on herself, leaving her unable to conceive and dashing Alex’s dreams of having a family together. Margaret has few friends and seldom ventures outside of their mansion near Portland, Oregon. She’s content to spend her days gardening and creating porcelain butterflies while avoiding his life of Hollywood parties and famous writer get togethers. Alex could not bring himself to leave the relationship. He was concerned about Margaret’s fragile mental condition and felt guilt about her support during his struggling years as a writer. Alex remained faithful during a loveless marriage of twenty-eight years, but this would change when he meets KIMBERLY.
Kimberly is a beautiful 28-year old English woman with dreams of becoming a novelist. She meets Alex after he speaks at a writer’s conference, and there’s immediate magnetism. They have an affair for several months, until Margaret finds out, thanks to the snooping of her friend LESLIE. The temperature of Alex and Margaret’s already cold relationship plummets even further. Kimberly is losing patience with Alex, wondering when he’s going to divorce Margaret. But Alex is stuck in idle. Even though he created a secret agent character – a man of action – Alex appears to be a man of inaction. Kimberly has seen enough. She packs her suitcase and moves back to England to stay with her sister.
After several months of Alex and Margaret mutually avoiding each other, he gets a phone call from Kimberly - she’s flying back and has some very important news. Alex picks her up at the airport, but before she can reveal the news, he crashes his sportscar into a logging truck that ran a stop sign. The crash kills Kimberly and leaves Alex in a vegetative state with Locked In Syndrome.
After Alex comes out of a coma and returns home, Margaret provides him with the best medical care 24/7, but her motives are not entirely altruistic. Her personality has now transformed from submissive to passive-aggressive, and although Alex wants nothing more than to die, Margaret isn’t ready to let go that easily after being betrayed. Fueled by drugs, Margaret plays mind-games with Alex, taking advantage of his vulnerable condition. Although Alex is paralyzed, his mind is as witty and caustic as ever, as demonstrated through voice overs aimed at Margaret, as well as observations of his life as a writer and his memories of Kimberly.
Margaret is encouraged by her friend Leslie to get away to San Francisco for a weekend. Margaret is not used to doing anything without Alex, but reluctantly leaves. During their stay together, Margaret and Leslie become lovers. As Margaret develops more confidence and acceptance of her sexuality, she and Leslie make plans for an extended stay in New York City. Being away has given Margaret an opportunity to see Alex with new eyes, and her need for vengenance is slowly abating.
Meanwhile, Alex reflects on his life through flashbacks. He loathes the prospect of living the rest of his life hooked up to a life-support system. One day while Margaret is in New York, a caretaker NURSE BONITA brings Alex a package sent from England. It contains a letter from Kimberly’s sister along with several photos of Kimberly holding an infant. This was the news Kimberly wanted to share just prior to the accident. Kimberly’s sister writes that she’ll bring the boy to visit Alex the following year. Alex now has a reason to live. Bonita places the letter and the photos under Alex’s pillow, saying that if Alex dreams of his son the wish to see him will come true.
Margaret returns from New York, no longer holding animosity and antagonism toward Alex. She now wants to grant him “death with dignity”, which in Oregon can be attained by a medically-assisted suicide. With chemically-induced confidence, Margaret dismisses the nursing staff, then slowly turns off Alex’s life-support machines one by one. In voice overs, Alex is hysterical but is unable to convey that. Margaret takes her favorite photo of her and Alex and places it next to his body as she professes her love. As Alex loses consciousness, Margaret discovers the Kimberly photos and letter hidden under the pillow. Margaret reads the letter, then realizes she’s made a terrible mistake. Here was the family Alex always wanted, and she now had the opportunity to fulfill his dream. Margaret frantically turns the life-support machines back on, but it’s too late. Alex is dead.
Margaret removes the photo of her and Alex and replaces it with a photo of Kimberly and his son. She stands by his bedside and sobs uncontrollably.