Daddy Still Loves Us is a 2019 American supernatural psychological horror film that revolves around an adolescent boy named Marcus, who finds himself falling victim to an inner malevolence after the death of his father. The film stars Jordan Pressler, Drew Barrymore, Tim Roth, Alex Esmail, Blanche Baker, Richard Jenkins, Amanda Warren, Kathryn Hahn, Danielle Rose Russell, Madisen Beaty, Dee Wallace, Jessica Sula, Trey Burvant,
Nothing is more terrifying than losing a loved one - or so he thought.
Following the recent death of his father, 19-year-old Marcus begins to experience a complete overhaul on his once-comfortable suburban life. His mother, Lynda, is also deeply traumatized by the loss and chooses to drown her sorrows away with a self-destructive plunge into alcoholism. Marcus receives a great deal of comfort from his close circle of friends in the neighborhood, all of whom want to support and care for their friend to the best of their distinct abilities. Refusing to seek professional help or come to terms with his father's passing, Marcus starts to follow in his mother's footsteps, smothering his deep-seated anxieties under drugs and booze. What commences as a chaotic aftermath of tragedy slowly progresses into something far more sinister, as Marcus learns that neither he nor his mother are safe living in their suppressed environment. Could it be his father trying to reach out to him from beyond the veil? Or has Marcus' life-altering trauma manifested in some sort of supernatural awakening?
In a quiet suburban neighborhood, an endless row of tall trees enclose the block, ablaze with color as the changing leaves fall carelessly onto the street and blow silently along in the wind across freshly mown lawn. The road is completely silent with nary a single car driving by. The bright blue sky is illuminating a lovely middle-class home adorned with thick bushes stacked up against the side windows and a large cherry tree standing on one side of the front yard. The green grass is slathered with red juice just below the tree. On top of the fruit-coated plant are some birds chirping happily as they feast on all the cherries. 19-year-old Marcus (Jordan Pressler) is relaxing by himself on the couch in his living room, watching an old black-and-white movie on his parents' widescreen TV. As he watches the old-fashioned yet artsy production with an almost deranged keenness, in comes his mother, Lynda (Drew Barrymore), complete with her half-drank glass of chardonnay, who wanders into the living room and slides beside Marcus on the couch with the glass in one hand and her cellphone in the other. Lynda scrolls through passages on her phone looking as though something is troubling her, but all Marcus cares to do is devote his full attention to the movie. Once she lets out her final glare of disgust upon her phone business, Lynda puts down her cellular device and turns her attention to an entranced Marcus. She questions Marcus as to why he frequently indulges in such ancient works of art, but he simply brushes off her obvious contempt and maintains his eyesight on the television screen. Seeing that he doesn't want to be spoken to, Lynda scrunches her face into a silly expression and playfully forces her way into Marcus' personal space, rubbing her face against his and asking him once again why he insists on watching old movies. Unable to keep his focus on the film, Marcus can't help breaking into a giggle and gives his mother a kiss on the cheek. Lynda wraps her arms around Marcus' neck and smothers him with hugs and kisses, resting her head on his shoulder and sharing in his fascinated viewing experience. Lynda realizes the movie Marcus is watching is George Waggner's 1941 horror film, The Wolf Man, catching the scene where Lon Chaney Jr. transforms into a werewolf. Lynda grows disturbed by the grotesqueness of this pivotal moment and asks Marcus why he's so consumed by the material, to which he unapologetically replies that he empathizes with the character, able to be scared by the effect but also moved by the notion of a man losing control over his physical and mental state. Lynda takes in her son's thought but can't resist taking another sip of her drink.
Later on in the evening, the sky takes on a dark blue palette. Leaves are still blowing along in the street. A Volkswagen CC pulls up in the driveway, and upon hearing the sound of the engine all the way from the living room, Marcus shoots up from the couch and eagerly rushes to the front door where he greets his father, Paul (Tim Roth) with a warm embrace. Paul gives his son a prolonged kiss on his scalp that's buried beneath mounds of brown wavy hair as he holds him powerfully in his arms. Lynda walks into the entrance and expresses her pleasant surprise that Marcus still greets his dad with affection even though he is 19. Marcus goes into the kitchen to get ready for dinner and Lynda welcomes Paul home from work with a long-awaited French kiss. As the couple becomes lost in each other's hold, Marcus lays out three placemats on the dining room table and then distributes cutlery and plates beside each. He strolls back into the entrance hall and finds his parents still canoodling, causing him to instinctively squinch his face up.
As the three sit around the table eating their dinner, Lynda reads conspiracy theory stories on her cellphone while Paul reads irrelevant hoax articles on his. Marcus, preferring not to waste his valuable time with his family eyeing a computer screen, chows down on his mother's rotisserie chicken with relish and applauds her for perfecting the meat as she usually does every Thursday night. Absorbed in the harrowing information she's reading, Lynda complains out loud about the government slowly destroying the ozone layer with chemtrails, but Paul rolls his eyes and insists that she's getting too caught up in details that have yet to be proven accurate. Lynda refuses to accept the possibility that her knowledge on this conspiracy is false, and proclaims she witnessed countless trails being left in the sky earlier from aircrafts. Marcus chimes in that Lynda may be confusing condensation left in the sky for chemicals, but she rebuffs any counterpoints in stubborn conviction that she is spot-on with her paranoid suspicions. Marcus proceeds to calmly eat his food, trying to avoid sending his mother into a frenzy, and asks Paul about his day at work. Paul proudly announces that he sold several life insurance policies to families going through a loss, as well as offering financial planning services to his clients approaching retirement. When asked about what he did today, Marcus tells his father he started working on writing his next screenplay on his fandom movies community. Paul humorously ridicules Marcus for writing fanfiction rather than getting an actual paying job, but Lynda comes to her son's rescue and commends him for devoting his time and energy into doing what makes him happy, encouraging him to continue writing his stories. During the course of their family dinner, somebody rings the doorbell outside. Paul and Lynda stare at each other in confusion, unsure of who would be arriving at their home so late in the evening, but Marcus has a pretty good idea of who it is.
He excuses himself from the table and saunters into the entrance hall. Slowly opening the door with a bit of apprehension, Marcus discovers his circle of best friends -- Brett (Alex Esmail), an emaciated, long-haired smoke fiend, his younger brother, Charlie ( ) and their black straitlaced friend, Jay ( ) -- waiting for him on his doorstep. Jay gives Marcus his signature hug and Brett reveals a case of bud light beer hidden in his backpack. Marcus greets them with a vague grin and unenthusiastically welcomes them into his home. As soon as the three step foot inside, Marcus secretly releases a frustrated sigh accompanied by an eye roll as he closes the door. Brett leads the pack upstairs toward Marcus' bedroom, but Marcus begins to feel sick with dread as he follows his friends up the steps. Staring at his closed bedroom door as though it were the gateway into a war zone, Marcus recommends hanging out downstairs in case they get drunk and create a commotion. The trio turns around and heads back downstairs, and on his way toward the basement, Jay peeks into the kitchen and gives a warm greeting to Paul and Lynda with his overemphasized smile and overtly polite exterior. Marcus ushers Jay downstairs in embarrassment and informs his parents they're simply going to watch television. Lynda voices her worry to Paul that the boys are planning on drinking and smoking, but Paul calms her down and asserts that Marcus would never engage in such an activity, believing he's too smart and educated to wreak havoc on his body or give in to peer pressure. Lynda thinks she should go downstairs and make sure they're not doing anything, but Paul urges her not to embarrass Marcus by making a scene and dismisses her fear by stating "teenagers will be teenagers". Lynda pulls herself together in hope that she's being irrational and falls silent, returning to her chicken with a resounding look of unease.
Down in the basement, Brett and Charlie take swigs of their canned beer and Jay sucks long drags off his electronic cigarette while Marcus stares at them with disdain and masks his discomfort behind an emotionless visage of calm. Brett offers Marcus some of his alcohol but he uses his dismissive wave to decline, insisting that he detests the flavor and prefers to maintain control of his faculties and behavior. Charlie proclaims that Marcus should experience what it's like to get drunk at least once in his life and criticizes him for being close-minded about attempting new things, but lacking the assertiveness to defend his choices, Marcus simply shrugs his shoulders and stares down at the floor in shame. Brett praises Marcus for having the courage to say no to things he doesn't want to do and even admires his ability to have a good time without relying on toxic substances, being that he has reached a point where he feels controlled and dominated by smoking and drinking in order to feel good. Injected with a spark of self-respect based on Brett's kind words, Marcus smiles at him as he mindlessly chugs away at his can. Looking over at Jay, who's emitting a cloud of vapor from his mouth, Marcus asks him what he's smoking, and Jay, surprised at his ignorance, explains that it's a nicotine-based liquid used to help smokers quit smoking. Marcus finds himself entranced by the sight of the growing cloud exiting from Jay's mouth, as well as enticed by the fruity scent, so he asks Jay if he could give it a try. Jay hands Marcus his e-cig and he observes its cigarette-shaped appearance with a transfixed blend of excitement and anxiety. Marcus slowly brings the electronic cigarette to his lips and inhales deeply, but struggles to hold the vapor in his mouth as it goes down his throat and starts choking on it. Brett, Charlie and Jay chuckle in merriment and Marcus hands the e-cig back to Jay as he continues to cough out the vapor through his mouth. Jay talks about meeting up with his girlfriend later in the night and indiscreetly mentions his plan to lose his virginity, which strikes Marcus with a tinge of envy and loneliness. Brett gets into an argument with Charlie over buying him a pack of cigarettes before he goes back to their father's house, leaving Marcus stranded in a mass of tedium as he apathetically listens to their bickering with his usual enigmatic gaze.
As the bright sun goes to rest and the blackness of night emerges alongside the moon, Lynda and Paul get ready for bed. Paul is in the bathroom brushing his teeth and Lynda is sitting upright in bed reading another article about chemtrails on her laptop. She reads troubling passages on the subject matter aloud to her husband, expressing her concern about where the state of the world will be if these actions continue, but Paul, talking through a mouthful of toothpaste, thinks these conspiracy stories are being written by unreliable misfits who are merely trying to stir up panic within the gullible population. Defiant to the sound of opposition, Lynda proceeds with horrified eyes as she skims through the article and silently reads theories regarding the connection between chemtrails and global warming. Paul spits his remaining toothpaste into the sink, wipes his face with a towel hanging off the door, and walks into his bedroom to find Lynda nervously scrutinizing the reports. Having had enough of her rambling for one night, Paul closes Lynda's laptop and forcibly moves it on top of the bureau despite her objection. He gets into bed and cuddles his wife closely, staring romantically into her eyes while she looks back at his with a smile of everlasting affection. As the lovers become more intimate with one another, hinting at the return of sexual desire, they suddenly hear a mood-threatening knock on the outside of their door. The knob is then turned and entering the room is Marcus, who seems as though he couldn't be happier to see his two best friends in the world. Lynda and Paul smoothly break off their intimacy and invite their son in, armed with the knowledge he was going to let himself in regardless. Marcus crawls in bed and lies down between Paul and Lynda, who both stare at each other with a mutual look of expected disappointment. Marcus, on the other hand, has on a smile of peace and relaxation painted across his face as he sinks his head comfortably on Paul's pillow and caresses his parents' hands. Paul informs Marcus that he can't sleep in their bed forever and must at some point learn independence, but Lynda feels honored to have a son who enjoys spending quality time with his parents. Marcus discusses his repugnance over associating with his friends when they smoke and drink because it's not something he can relate to, so Paul admonishes him to find new friends, but Marcus admits he is too shy and socially inept to meet new people.
Early the following morning, the sun rises over the suburban street and a couple more cherries fall from the tree and make a splat as they hit the ground. Marcus, Paul and Lynda are still sleeping together in their bed huddled under a cozy quilt. Marcus and Paul sleep face to face while Marcus keeps both of his hands wrapped tightly around his father's arm. Paul is suddenly woken out of his snooze by the incessant ringing of his alarm clock placed atop a wooden shelf next to his bed. He reaches over and turns off his bedside alarm, then delicately pulls Marcus' fingers off his arm, sits up straight on the edge of the bed and rubs his eyes. Looking over his shoulder and seeing as his wife and son are still asleep, Paul gives Marcus a kiss on his temple and edges away into the bathroom to take a shower. As a cloud of steam permeates the room and gentle running water bounces calmly off the enclosed walls, Marcus remains peacefully confined in his sleep and turns over on his back, lying shoulder to shoulder with Lynda.
With his hair neatly groomed, and sporting a white button-down shirt along with a professional-looking pair of khakis, Paul heads downstairs into the kitchen and brews a steaming pot of coffee. He snatches an avocado from a basket beside the refrigerator and begins to dig out pieces of the green, smooth oily flesh with a spoon and devours it at the table, while simultaneously drinking his cup of coffee and reading yet another story on his cellphone. Lynda, enveloped in a dressing gown, wanders into the kitchen with noticeably untidy hair and partially open eyes. She fixes herself a hot cup of coffee and complains about being stiff from lying so closely next to Marcus in bed. Paul mentions in a rather calm manner that his arm feels slightly bruised as a result of Marcus gripping it all night, necessitating him to drink coffee with his opposite hand. Lynda sits sipping coffee and asks Paul what he's reading, and he tells her it's regarding a priest who denied a transgender woman from entering his church. Lynda cringes at the stupidity of the article and expresses her discontent with the lack of tolerance and empathy going on in the world. As Paul continues to consume avocado by the large spoonful, Lynda confesses that she smelled nicotine on Marcus' clothing even though he promised he wasn't smoking with his friends, to which Paul surmises that some of his friends' smoke must have absorbed into Marcus' clothes. Lynda is concerned that Brett is a bad influence on their son, claiming he used to be a sweet, artistic prodigy but is now throwing his life away on booze and cigarettes. Paul agrees with her but trusts that Marcus is mature enough to make his own decision on who he hangs out with. After finishing reading his article, Paul smiles seductively at Lynda and notifies her that Marcus probably won't be waking up for a few more hours, but even though she clocks his advance, Lynda refuses to have sex with their son in the house. Paul starts moving slowly toward her and brushes a wisp of hair away from her face, promising that he can be quiet, but Lynda teases him with a slow kiss on the lips before pushing him away and making him a deal that they'll have sex tonight as long as they lock the doors. Paul reluctantly agrees to wait until he arrives home from work and shares one last meeting of the tongues with Lynda before getting ready to leave. He takes with him his briefcase and remaining cup of coffee while Lynda loyally accompanies him to the front door. Paul walks down the driveway and steps into his car, laying the coffee down in the cupholder and resting his briefcase on top of his passenger seat. Starting the engine, Paul stares through his windshield and sees Lynda standing in the doorway gazing at him with adoration. They smile lovingly at each other and make a romantic motion with their hands, signifying their mutual endearment. Paul subsequently backs out of the driveway and drives down the quiet street, honking his horn for Lynda along the way. Lynda observes Paul driving away with a look of anxious uncertainty on her face, but once his car surpasses her view, she steps back inside the house and slowly closes the door.
Marcus finally wakens from his sleep and stretches out his arms, releasing a satisfying sigh of weariness. Turning his head to the side to find the clock reading 11:30 am, Marcus slowly pulls himself upright and yanks the covers off his lap, letting it fall carelessly onto the floor hanging over the side of the bed. Constantly blinking his bleary eyes, complete with an appropriately messy bedhead, Marcus gets out of bed and strolls next door into his bedroom, where he finds his mackerel tabby cat, Jake, curled up sleeping on top of his bed. Marcus takes a prolonged glance around his room and cringes at the sight of his babyish surroundings: featuring a row of friendly animals painted across the wallpaper, a lamp beside his computer covered with blocks of giraffe heads, owls, squirrels, cows, elephants and dolphins, a blue chair with a smiley face and a bed designed with cartoon characters on the sheets. Marcus wraps his arms around Jake's enlarged, rotund body and showers him with kisses as he sleeps, whispering in his ear how much he loves him when Jake suddenly wakes up and begins licking his brother all over his face. Marcus sits down in front of his computer and attempts to work on his narrative, but once he clicks on the page to start editing, he finds himself frozen in a state of writer's block. Struggling to think of something to write, Marcus sits back and exhales deeply, relaxing his muscles and assuring himself that he can do this. He begins typing whatever comes to mind but doesn't feel content with his choice of words, so he erases his sentence and develops an instant sting of frustration. Running his hands through his hair and biting down on his teeth, Marcus allows himself a moment of pause before he takes another whack at writing his starting sentence. Lynda comes in the bedroom offering Marcus a fresh cup of coffee, much to the disruption of his creative mental process. Not wanting to express his irritation, Marcus remains focused on the computer screen and tells his mom he's working. Lynda asks him if he would like to join her downstairs for some breakfast, but Marcus chooses to get through his paragraph first before he does anything else. Lynda asks what his article is about, but as his concentration quickly goes out the window, Marcus snaps at her and explains that he would like to be left alone while he's writing. Sensing the assertiveness in his voice, Lynda carefully sets the coffee down on the desk and gives Marcus an understanding kiss on the head before leaving the room and quietly shutting the door to block out any noises. Marcus takes a sip of coffee followed by one last deep breath, then calmly recommences typing away. As Marcus writes his sentence freely without any restraint, he feels a rush of inspiration course through his veins resulting in a growing smile. Jake jumps off the bed and affectionately rubs up against Marcus' leg, earning him a rub on his orange-furred back. After Marcus accomplishes his first few sentences, he peacefully downs his coffee, leans back and folds his arms behind his head and stares out his window looking at the trees in his backyard with a discreet smile of ease.
Marcus goes for a walk with Lynda around the block, passing before an array of modest houses exemplified by immaculate lawns. As the two step leisurely down the neighborhood, Lynda makes conversation with Marcus about whether he has any crushes on the girls he goes to school with, but feeling too awkward to disclose that kind of personal information, Marcus simply shrugs his shoulders and steers the conversation toward his mother, questioning her as to the potency of her own love life with his father. Lynda casually reveals to him that she and Paul were getting ready to have sex last night but were forced to refrain themselves because he wandered into their room. Disgusted by his mother's unrestrained honesty, Marcus playfully gags and begs her never to tell him something like that again. Lynda laughs at Marcus' childlike reaction to sex and begins prying into his personal life, asserting that he must have his eye on some pretty girl being that he's 19 years old and spends a lot of his time alone in his bedroom. Though he's annoyed by Lynda's nosy questions and a little embarrassed, Marcus finally mentions that he has harbored something of a romantic interest in a student named Brynn, who sits in front of him in his psychology class. Lynda encourages him to ask her out, but Marcus shakes his head and dismisses the idea as futile, believing that Brynn is far too popular to want anything to do with him. Sympathizing with her inhibited son's lack of confidence, Lynda tells Marcus that he is a remarkable, devilishly handsome boy with a strong talent for writing and that Brynn would be lucky to have a boyfriend like him, but all Marcus can give as a response is a distant roll of the eyes, and once Lynda informs him that she would have gone out with him if she were his age and unrelated, he flinches uncomfortably and asks her to stop. While Marcus and Lynda awkwardly continue their on-foot journey along the sidewalk, Marcus brings up his doubts about pursuing a career in college, claiming that sitting in a classroom everyday of the week studying for meaningless exams isn't going to guarantee him happiness in the future. Lynda instantly becomes nervous by his remark and worries that he'll be in for a bad path if he decides to quit school, but Marcus maintains his theory that he could be doing something more valuable with his time, such as devoting his full effort to writing fanfiction. Lynda supports her son on whatever it is he wants to do with his life, but struggles to get over the fact that he isn't making money off of his narratives, to which Marcus insists that doesn't bother him because writing at least makes him happy and allows him to make use of his skill.
Nearing the end of their street, Marcus sees his elderly, silver-haired neighbor, Sylvia Cooperman (Blanche Baker), raking leaves in her front yard across the walkway. Sylvia sees them approaching and a radiant smile immediately arrives on her face. She waves enthusiastically, drops her rake carelessly on the lawn and rushes over to them, giving both Marcus and Lynda an overdue hug. Marcus conceals his annoyance behind a subtle, close-mouthed smile while Sylvia and Lynda engage in a lighthearted discussion about what they've been up to. Sylvia volunteers at the local synagogue with her husband every weekend and just recently mourned the death of her beloved friend, much to the sorrow of Lynda, who expresses her condolences and shortage of capacity to understand what that must feel like. Marcus listens to their somber dialogue with empathetic eyes, secretly scratching his leg out of discomfort and silent pleading to go home. When Sylvia turns her attention to Marcus asking what he's currently doing, the ungainly teen declares he is attending classes at a community college and writing fanfiction films on his free time. Sylvia wishes Marcus luck on his art and mentions that her daughter used to love writing as a child until she found her true passion for nursing in college, leaving a decidedly uninterested Marcus to nod his head in false approval. Sylvia then reminisces about the days when she and her husband used to babysit Marcus, bringing about a bittersweet nostalgia for she and Lynda while causing further unease for Marcus, still clawing at his skin using light upward strokes. Sylvia ultimately says her warm goodbyes to the pair and resumes her leaf raking, watching Marcus and Lynda as they carry on their walk back home. Marcus confesses to his mother that there's something off-putting about the Coopermans, and while she agrees they're not pleasant to talk to, Lynda defends them as friendly old neighbors who were nice enough to babysit for her and Paul when Marcus was younger.
While Paul is sitting in his office typing an email to a client, he is suddenly broken out of his concentration by a knock on the door, turning around to find his close friend and long-time client, Lorraine (Amanda Warren) standing outside in front of the window. Anxious to assist, Paul gestures Lorraine to come inside and she eagerly rushes into his office and takes a seat across from his desk, handing him a check in order to make an early payment. As Paul enters her financial information into the internet, Lorraine, looking as though something serious is on her mind, questions Paul in regard to him leaving his office within a few months. Ridden with guilt, Paul puts a stop to his work and confesses to Lorraine that he is in fact being forced to shut down his office as a result of failing to make his numbers. Lorraine begs him to reconsider leaving since he is not only her close friend, but her only financial supporter for the last 15 years, and she fears that nobody else will take care of her with the same level of honesty and commitment. However, Paul assures her that the decision to retire is not in his control and that he will refer her to the most trustworthy agent once he officially leaves his office. Lorraine's face is overwhelmed with a look of panic and helplessness, and she tries unsuccessfully to convince Paul into standing his ground and refusing to quit, but he regrettably informs her that staying is no longer an option for him, revealing that he hasn't even told his wife yet about his obligatory withdrawal out of shame. As Lorraine hatefully absorbs this harrowing information, she looks around the office and is captivated by a photograph of Marcus sitting atop a shelf. Merely desperate for a distraction, Lorraine compliments Marcus' picture and in a melancholy tone reminisces about the days when Marcus was a little boy helping Paul around the office. Putting his scathing sense of humor to use, Paul denies Lorraine's allegation of his son having good looks and insists he has no proof that Marcus is actually his child, causing Lorraine to burst out in a mocking chuckle as she declares that Marcus is one face of him. On a personal note, Paul asks Lorraine how she's doing otherwise, and she confides in him that she has suffered from loneliness ever since she and her husband split up, but finds comfort in her Yorkshire terrier.
While Lynda is in her kitchen hovering over a large, steaming saucepan filled with chili, Marcus sits in the living room with Brett and Charlie watching an old cartoon. They're sprawled on the sofa and while Marcus is utterly intoxicated by the buffoonish comedy unfolding on the television, Brett appears resoundingly uninterested. He sinks deeply into the couch cushion with his feet lying on the coffee table and reads through a series of memes on his smartphone. Charlie munches on popcorn and mutters a few fake laughs to appease his brother's best friend. On TV, a sinister bird follows a worm with the desperate intention of eating him. Once the worm realizes he's being hunted, he starts hopping away while the bird angrily chases after him. Marcus looks at the black and white aesthetic with a mixture of merriment and reverence, chuckling consistently as the worm burrows into the soil to go underground, only to be caught in the bird's mouth at the last second. The bird pulls the worm out of his hole and the worm wiggles helplessly as his bottom is stuck in the predator's gums, but soon the worm slithers under all of the ground holes, wraps himself around a branch and yanks the bird through the 4 air holes, stripping him of his feathers. In the kitchen, Lynda chops up some vegetables to mix into the chili and gives herself a taste of her masterful concoction, only to flinch at the burning temperature. After she wipes the excess chili powder off her semi-burnt palm, Lynda calls Paul to ask him what time he'll be home, but he doesn't answer his phone. She leaves him a voicemail telling him she made chili for dinner and that the boys are hanging out in the living room. Not wanting to disrupt him in case he's busy with a customer, Lynda tells Paul she loves him and hopes to see him in a short matter of time. She then sets her phone on the counter and proceeds to stir in the seasoning mix, staring down at the soup intently as it boils.
As Paul is driving home from work, he hears his phone beeping inside his pocket and sees that he missed a call from Lynda. He presses a button to play the message she left for him informing him that she has dinner prepared and hopes he doesn't plan on working late. Confident that his driving skill is strong enough to handle two simultaneous tasks, Paul calls Lynda to tell her he got her message and that he's on his way home. While Lynda is sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a bowl of her chili, she brags to Paul about her cooking dexterity and proclaims that she has perfected the greatest chili to date, prompting Paul to tease her claiming that he works 5 days a week for more than 40 hours while she stays at home perfecting her "housewife pleasures". Out of playful spite, Lynda accuses Paul of being ungrateful for everything she does and vows not to give him anymore of her food, telling him he can starve every night from now on. Following their brief exchange of banter, Lynda and Paul once again express their love for each other ending with Paul promising to arrive home shortly. Stuffing his phone back into his pocket, Paul makes his way down the winding road through a wooded valley when suddenly a deer wanders out of the woods and attempts to cross the street. Paul slams on his brakes but unavoidably collides with the deer, splitting its body in half and causing Paul's car to swerve around a corner and crash into a tree. Once Paul regains consciousness, he finds himself lying upside down surrounded by glass and blood, peering up at the ceiling of his car. Paul reaches toward his ceiling, bracing himself with one hand while stabilizing his feet on the floor of the vehicle, and then undoes his seat belt. He crawls uneasily toward a window and breaks it open with his hand, clearing away glass shards before exiting through the confined opening. Once he's free from the car, Paul looks up at the sky as he lies wounded on the side of the road, gasping in pain and shock. Turning his head to the side, he views the bisected carcass of the ill-fated deer scattered across the road a few feet away. Paul's vision becomes blurred by a stream of tears in addition to blood dripping down from a gash on his forehead. His heavy breathing gradually diminishes, along with his suffering, and he draws in one last breath before his eyes go dead, facing the trees as they sway in the gentle wind.
Marcus and Lynda sit across from each other at the dinner table uncomfortably struggling to eat their chili, disturbed by the chilling disquiet brought on by the absence of their patriarch. Dipping his spoon into a thick glob of melted mozzarella cheese, Marcus finds himself too nauseated to even bring it to his lips, staring at his mother with a palpable expression of sadness and softly calls out to her, but she's distracted in her attempt to reach Paul on her cellphone. As Lynda patiently waits for the ringing on the other end to result in an answer, she only receives the despairing response of the voicemail instructing her to leave a message. Growing more overwhelmed by panic, Lynda looks at Marcus' stricken face, contorted with worry. She gets out of her seat and plants a compassionate kiss between her son's eyes, suggesting that he wait there while she goes to look for his father, but a determined Marcus rejects her idea and insists he's coming with her.
During their drive to Paul's office, Marcus stares out the window looking at the passing trees while Lynda mentions that if she finds his father with Lorraine, she's going to go ballistic. Marcus doesn't believe his father would ever cheat on her, especially since all he does when he isn't working is sleep, and Lynda subtly reveals to him that she and Paul plan on having a romantic night together, causing Marcus to briefly forget about his concern and instead become disgusted by the thought of his parents making love. As the two share a lighthearted laugh, Lynda suddenly runs over something in the road, forcing her to stop the car and breaking their moment of stability. Both of them gasping in shock, Lynda clutches a frightened Marcus on his shoulder and makes sure that he's okay. Once they regain their breaths, Marcus and Lynda exit the car and realize they ran over the bisected upper torso of a deer carcass. Lynda wanders further up the street to check for any oncoming vehicles for help and Marcus kneels down and stares into the deceased deer's eyes, caressing his face out of sympathy. Getting back on his feet, Marcus turns around and finds his mother standing on the side of the road with her back turned. He walks curiously to Lynda and tries to get her attention, but she is transfixed by a crashed car lying upside down in the grass. Marcus' face becomes flooded with dread as he recognizes the car is his father's Volkswagen CC, and Lynda, rooted to the spot in disbelief, orders him to get back in her car. Marcus starts breathing heavily and rushes back into Lynda's car where he waits for her to return. Lynda takes out her cellphone and dials the police, but as she holds the phone to her ear, she catches a glimpse of something lying on the ground a few feet away. Hanging up as soon as the dispatcher answers the call, Lynda slowly walks over to the figure. As Marcus sits silently in the passenger seat feeling a surge of anxiety, his greatest fear comes to fruition when he hears his mother let out a blood-curdling scream. Marcus shakes his head in disbelief and begins to whimper like a child, fully convinced that his father is dead. Sometime later in the night, the wooded area is swarming with police who have blocked off the road. A hysterical Lynda cradles Paul's head in her arms and weeps loudly over his body, pleading with him to wake up as police officers struggle to pull her away in order to put Paul on the gurney. Marcus stands immobile on the side of the road, tears welling in his eyes and spilling down his shocked visage. He watches in shell-shocked horror as his father gets carried away in an ambulance and his mother proceeds to break down in the arms of a sympathetic patrolman, burying her face into his armpit as she cries.
At the synagogue, waiting for the funeral service to begin, Marcus sits distraught in the front row of benches next to an openly grieving Lynda. His face is expressionless and utterly devoid of color, focusing a blank gaze toward the stained glass windows in the chapel while he tugs self-consciously on his tie draped over a blue collared, button-down shirt. Lynda clasps her son's hand and whispers to him that everything is going to be okay once they get through this, but Marcus appears too distant to return her affection for once. Desperate to reach out, Lynda showers Marcus with her typically healing array of kisses, but all he can do is wince at her sentiment. Realizing he wants to be left alone, Lynda takes out a piece of loose-leaf paper with a eulogy written on it and starts to scrutinize her own words to guarantee their perfection, tears welling in her eyes along the way. As more family members and loved ones of Paul gather together in the chapel, Sylvia rushes over to Lynda and apologizes for not waiting until after the burial to give her condolences, but a heartbroken Lynda assures her it's okay and gives her a much-needed hug. Sylvia attempts to comfort Marcus during his silent grief, but he remains mostly cold and unresponsive. In an effort to make a sincere gesture, Sylvia offers to make dinner for Marcus and Lynda sometime after the grieving process slows down, and Lynda gratefully accepts her invitation. Sylvia takes her seat on the bench behind Lynda and shortly before the service commences, several more attendees make their way inside and are seated in the back. Marcus sits paralyzed by the sight of his father's closed casket resting atop the platform, filling him with a growing comprehension of all that's left after death.
Once all of the remaining attendees are seated, Rabbi Gerald Cooperman (Richard Jenkins) mounts the platform to address the congregation and begins the service with a reading of Biblical passages from the book of Psalms. As everybody in the crowd begins to perform a silent prayer, keeping their backs straight but free and quieting their minds and bodies by taking a few relaxing, deep breaths, Marcus closes his eyes and swallows hard, sniffing back his tears. Rabbi Gerald then delivers a eulogy about Paul informing and comforting the mourners with the knowledge of what a selfless, hardworking and devoted husband and father the deceased was. Following his kindhearted send-off to the crowd, Gerald asks loved ones if they would like to share their own stories and history about Paul, and Lynda -- inexperienced with public speaking but brave enough to speak on behalf of her husband -- hesitantly rises from her chair clutching the piece of paper in her hand and slowly climbs on the platform. Unable to thoroughly look the crowd in the eye, Lynda uneasily delivers her eulogy explaining her intimate and perfect relationship with Paul while choking back tears and constantly looking down at her piece of paper to stay on track with her writing. As the devastation overwhelms her ability to speak, Lynda breaks down in a fit of sadness and is unable to deliver her remarks, so Gerald gently takes the paper from her and finishes reading Lynda's remaining thoughts while she goes to sit back down. Marcus empathetically takes his mother's hand and enfolds her in his arms, listening as Gerald soothingly reads Lynda's eulogy aloud. Gerald subsequently offers Marcus the opportunity to say something on behalf of his father, stupefying him as a result of having nothing written down. Reluctantly, Marcus ascends the platform and nervously faces the crowd, struggling to muster a spontaneous speech about his dad. He decides to simply speak from the heart and slowly begins to open up about the close relationship he shared with his father, but doesn't skimp on some of the flaws he encountered in Paul's behavior. Marcus' voice starts cracking as he acknowledges how much he loved his father and that he would do anything to trade places with him to avoid living the rest of his life without him. In a fit of anger, Marcus turns to face Paul's coffin and blames him for leaving him and his mother alone, claiming that if he had spent more time at home with them than at work, he would still be alive. Lynda and several other mourners look on uncomfortably and stay put in their seats.
As Marcus and Lynda are gathered at the graveside, surrounded by an abundance of heartbroken mourners, Rabbi Cooperman recites a short series of prayers dealing with mortality and love. Marcus respectfully devotes his attention to Gerald's prayer but also winces at some of the obvious rehearsal in his voice. Once Gerald finishes his recital of the El Malei Rachamim, Marcus and Lynda watch Paul's coffin being lowered into the ground. As the slowly sinking casket descends gently to the bottom of the grave, Gerald gestures for Lynda to pick up the shovel placed beside a pile of newly dug earth. Though visibly horrified, Lynda rises from her chair and grabs the shovel before scooping up a large chunk of soil and hesitantly approaching her husband's grave. She looks down at the coffin with tears streaming down her face and quivering lips, whispering a final goodbye just before she empties the shovel onto Paul's casket. Marcus remains in his seat and observes a line of mourners stepping forward, taking turns dropping a little of the soil onto his father's coffin. To his surprise, Marcus notices that some of the mourners are replacing the shovel back in the earth rather than handing it from one person to the next. While several more participants step up to help fill the grave, Marcus finds himself growing haunted by the echo of earth falling on the wooden coffin, compelling him to cover his ears but the terrible sound of finality only grows louder with each sprinkling of dirt. Marcus is suddenly snapped out of his sickened stupor by Lynda, who grabs him by his shoulder and encourages him to sprinkle some soil over Paul's coffin. Unwilling to confess his disinterest in helping out, Marcus thoughtlessly lifts the shovel out of the earth and plunges it into the soil. He slowly walks toward his father's grave and stands motionless above the coffin, straining for the fortitude to lower the shovel. Marcus begins to shudder at the sight of his father's coffin and accidentally spills some of the earth, pervading him with heavy-breathing panic. He nervously turns around and places the shovel back into the earth, walking briskly away from the grave and struggling to regain his composure. Lynda tries to console Marcus but he pushes her gently away and storms off.
Returning to Marcus and Lynda's house where shiva is being observed, people hang around in the living room, serve themselves food from the platters of cold cuts and engage in somber conversation using hushed voices. Lynda, collapsed on her couch encompassed by a group of her closest girlfriends, is beside herself with anguish expressing her concern about what she's going to do now that she is a widow. Her friends enfold her in their arms and promise to help her out with anything she needs, assuring Lynda that she is not to go through this life-shattering experience all by herself. Fighting through her tears of overwhelming distress, Lynda tearfully reveals that what frightens her the most is how Marcus is going to carry himself without a father, fearing that she cannot be a capable mother to him single-handed. One of her friends recommends joining her at the gym where she can build her self-confidence and meet somebody who can take care of her, but Lynda proclaims she isn't ready for companionship just yet, still hindered by her emotional attachment to Paul and feeling as though she'd be cheating on him if she went looking for someone new. Lynda's back starts to rise and fall in a fit of sobs, and her friends, looking helpless, give her consoling pats to soothe her and solemnly swear that they will help her get through this.
Secluded upstairs within his bedroom, Marcus lies in bed cocooned in a blanket. His face is dampened with tears and he absentmindedly faces the wall. As Jake sits patiently on the floor with his forelegs tucked beneath his furry corpulent stomach, staring upward at his melancholic brother with beady eyes, he suddenly emits a piteous meow to get Marcus' attention. Turning over slowly on his right side, Marcus fixes Jake with an unwavering stare and begins quivering with heartbreak as he repeatedly utters, "Daddy isn't coming home!" Marcus then breaks down in tears, whimpering quietly underneath the covers.
The remaining mourners are slowly filtering out of the house and Lynda politely ushers them to the door, vacuously accepting their condolences and thanking them for coming. Her friend informs her that she spotted somebody sitting in their car outside at the end of the block, prompting Lynda to curiously go outside and investigate. She takes a leisurely walk down the block squinting her eyes to get a better look at the type of car she's approaching, and once the person inside notices they've been detected, she quickly plunges the key into the ignition, but Lynda circles over to the window just in time. Cornered, the woman dressed in all black yanks out her key and awkwardly steps out of the car, revealing herself to be Lynda's older sister, Mary (Kathryn Hahn). Lynda stands frozen beside the vehicle, wearing an expression of harassed astonishment and unable to produce any remarks. Mary, who is equally in a struggle to act rationally, gives her condolences for what happened to Paul and explains that she desperately wanted to attend his funeral but panicked at the last second out of doubt that Lynda would've wanted to see her. As Lynda remains stationary, taking in her sister's wholehearted speech, Mary apologizes for the regrettable way in which they ended their last relationship and takes full responsibility for what she cruelly said about Paul. Mary begs Lynda's forgiveness while on the verge of tears, and seeing the genuine pain in her sister's desolate watery eyes, Lynda silently acknowledges her apology and steps forward to envelop her in a hug.
Hours later in the nighttime, the house is almost completely empty and bathed in peaceful silence. Platters of food sit wrapped up on the dining room table and the television is playing inaudibly in the living room. Marcus is at his work desk staring lethargically at his unfinished article presented on the computer screen, featuring a narrative about a modern teenager who doesn't feel as though he belongs in the 21st century. The title above reads, "Untitled Coming-of-age Project" in bold and contains three months' worth of several paragraphs and detailed characterizations but a serious decline in plot progression. Marcus looks as though his story doesn't even excite him anymore and he struggles mentally to conjure up an opening sentence for his next paragraph. He is wearing a lightweight hooded pullover sweatshirt and pajama bottoms, ready to throw himself in bed at any minute. Taking a deep breath and gently rubbing his temples, Marcus quietly tells himself he can do this and begins typing his first sentence, but before he is able to finish, his eyes are drawn to the baby-furnished lamp in the corner of his bedroom. Distracted by childish images of smiling animals, a frustrated Marcus gets out of his seat, walks briskly over to the lamp and turns it around so it's facing the wall. He then returns to the computer and attempts to complete his sentence, only to realize that his fleeting rush of inspiration has already escaped him. On his desk beside the computer is a corned beef sandwich lying uneaten on a paper plate. Marcus gazes at the sandwich contemplating taking a bite, but unhappily decides against it in favor of keeping his energy firmly focused on writing.
Marcus sits in the back of his classroom and jots down notes for his story while the professor tries to lead the class in a group discussion about "Othello". While the majority of students appear largely apathetic, sitting back in their chairs feigning consciousness, Brynn (Danielle Rose Russell), the stunningly attractive girl who Marcus has feelings for, volunteers in the debate and declares that Othello's tragic flaw was jealousy which made him susceptible to believing anything negative that Iago told him. Intrigued by her well-thought-out statement, Marcus takes a momentary break from his writing and focuses his attention on an unsuspecting Brynn who's sitting on the far end of a distant row, watching her with an undisguised lust. Once the teacher regains control of the discussion and moves it forward among others, Marcus returns to his brainstorming and pencils another idea into his notebook, involving his protagonist falling in love with a beautiful young woman who fails to recognize his existence. He looks out the window next to his desk and becomes nearly lost in a daydream, peering at the outside campus and into a wooded area across the street. Marcus fixes his eyes on the swaying trees and ambiguous passage leading to the darkened forest, growing somewhat frightened by the familiarity of the valley. As the teacher realizes that Marcus is not paying attention, she calls out his name, but he continues to stare out the window as though an invisible entity is looking back at him. After calling out his name a third time, Marcus is snapped out of his reverie, seeing that he's being gawked at by his classmates. The teacher asks Marcus if he has something more important on his mind, and he casually reveals that he has been working on an important personal narrative that he finds more beneficial than listening to someone drone on about a well-traveled play written in the 17th century. Several students exchange surprised glances as the professor informs Marcus that he is free to leave the class if he needs to take care of something else. Marcus politely accepts that invitation and silently breathes out, as if in awe at what he just said to the teacher. He decides to remain in his seat and proceeds to scribble some more concepts, the teacher calmly going ahead with the Othello conversation. As Marcus is concentrating on his outline, he glances to the side and finds Brynn staring at him with a combined expression of admiration and curiosity. Marcus stares back at her with a slight smile and she turns back to the professor, unaware that his smile is turning into a yearning gaze.
Lynda drearily enters her bedroom carrying a stack of three cardboard boxes: individually labeled "things to keep", "give away" and "not sure". Setting the boxes down beside her bed, she goes through Paul's compartments and deposits a pile of his favored belongings in the retaining box when Jake wanders into the room and begins rubbing his head against the cardboard boxes. Comforted by her cat's presence, Lynda tells Jake that she misses Paul too and asks his advice on what things of his should she keep and get rid of. Once Jake walks over to the left side of the bed staring up at his father's alarm clock, Lynda decides to unplug it from the wall and places the clock gently inside the give-away box, thanking Jake for making that decision easier for her. She pets him lovingly on the back of his neck and kisses him on the cheek, reminding him how grateful she is every day for Marcus having picked him to be their family pet. Lynda then comes across a folder containing pictures of Paul from his younger years: as she flips through them, contemplating whether these mementos will be too painful to hold on to, she ultimately drops them in the "not sure" pile. Reaching the most dread-inducing part of the process, Lynda opens the doors to Paul's closet and stares attentively at his clothing. After standing frozen for a moment in deep concentration, Lynda hesitantly removes Paul's shirts from their hangers and holds them in a pile up to her nose, sniffing them with demented affection before she turns her back toward the closet and slumps dejectedly to the floor. Jake moves toward his mother and smashes his head against her arm, but she remains absent and still as she cradles her husband's clothes in her arms and begins to cry. As Jake stays close to Lynda's side detecting her need for solidarity, suddenly she emits a loud wail of anguish, frightening Jake and causing him to scurry out of the room.
As Brynn hangs around her locker, brushing her long auburn hair in front of a mirror, Marcus surreptitiously lingers in the hallway far behind her, blocked by a swarming crowd of numerous students passing by to get to their next destination. He stands as still as a statue hopelessly among his fast-moving classmates, laboring for the courage to finally approach her, while Brynn beautifully arranges herself in complete lack of awareness to her admirer's longing gaze in the background. Overwhelmed with last-minute dread, a downhearted Marcus turns away and departs to go to lunch empty-handed and crestfallen.
While Lynda is calmly folding all of her husband's clothes and packing them away to keep possession of, she looks up and sees a pile of his reading books on top of his nightstand. Looking at the collection as though she never knew what a strong reader Paul was, Lynda picks up the neatly arranged load of novels and carefully places them inside the "not sure" box, coming across a misplaced photograph of herself, Paul and Marcus on a cruise ship from several years ago. Scanning the family picture with a wistful expression, Lynda becomes filled with acute nostalgia over her younger days with her family and assuredly situates the meaningful image in the box of items to be held on to. When the doorbell is unexpectedly rung, Lynda gets up and starts making her way downstairs, but as she walks by the bathroom, she spots something that negatively catches her attention. Storming into the bathroom, Lynda yanks her husband's toothbrush out of its holder and abruptly tosses it in the trash can beside the toilet. Walking briskly down the stairs and into the foyer, she opens the front door and is surprised to see Mary standing rather expectantly on her doorstep. Rife with a glowing smile of hopefulness, Mary tells Lynda she hasn't been able to stop thinking about her since Paul's death and asks almost pleadingly to come inside so they can talk, to which Lynda begrudgingly obliges.
Lynda goes into the kitchen to prepare some cold drinks while Mary follows her to the living room and takes a seat on the couch. Pulling an unopened, expensive bottle of champagne from the refrigerator -- bought for them by Paul as an anniversary present -- Lynda pours a little wine into two glasses and retreats to the living room where she joins her sister on the couch and hands her a glass. While Mary is unsure about partaking something of sentimental value from her late brother-in-law, Lynda assures her she would rather share the drink with her sister than consume it by herself. As the two nurse their drinks and converse amicably about how their lives have been, Mary eagerly draws a photo album from her purse filled with pictures of their family history from multiple years prior. Scrolling through several pages of the book, looking at photos of Marcus as a baby, and Lynda and Mary hanging out with each other, Lynda comes upon her wedding pictures, noting how beautiful she and Paul were back in their twenties. During the course of their trip down memory lane, Mary blurts out that she met with a medium who helped her make contact with her deceased husband and believes that Lynda can do the same. Uneasy with the idea, Lynda rejects her offer and insists that even if she did manage to channel Paul's spirit through a seance, it wouldn't compensate for his lack of physical existence. Mary, whose husband passed away from a heart attack 3 years ago, states that she suffered through a deep depression after the loss, and once she found a way to feel his presence with her once again, it completely changed her attitude and state of mind for the better. While admittedly intrigued by her sister's claims, Lynda remains skeptical about making contact with Paul and tells Mary she needs more time to think about whether she's willing to make that attempt.
As Marcus is sitting by himself in the cafeteria, barely touching the sandwich and chips that rest on his tray, he takes a glance outside the window to notice an unfamiliar man wearing a white button-down shirt similar to the one his father would wear to work, walking briskly across the campus through crowds of socializing students. Spellbound by the incomplete glimpse of this familiar-dressed stranger, Marcus, whose brows are furrowed in concentration, desperately attempts to steal another look but the man has already disappeared from his sight. Determined to find this man, Marcus rises from his empty table and exits the cafeteria to begin wandering around the schoolyard, following the direction in which he witnessed the figure tread. As he walks across the lawn, encircled by a myriad of students talking as they enjoy their lunch, Marcus spots the stranger dressed in white and begins hastening toward him, only to stumble on a couple's blanket and fall heavily. Lifting his head up to realize the mysterious figure has driven away, Marcus gets scolded by Noah ( ) for disrupting he and his girlfriend's quietness and for messing up their food, while Katie (Madisen Beaty) reacts more reasonably and asks him if he's okay. Humiliated, Marcus awkwardly picks himself up and apologizes for disturbing the two. Noah -- too ignorant to accept his sincere apology -- continues to hurl insults at Marcus and mocks him for the way he was running, but Katie, annoyed with her boyfriend's unnecessary overreaction, tells him to shut up and generously assures Marcus that he has nothing to be ashamed of. Wiping some dirt off his shoulders, Marcus exchanges an appreciative smile with Katie before walking away. As Noah gathers up the plates and cups, Katie glowers at him in disgrace. Marcus ambles along the field and catches sight of a deer moving behind some trees, piquing his interest and prompting him to follow. As Marcus moves closer to get a better view of the beautiful creature, the deer turns around and reveals itself to be covered with grotesque black tumors all over its head and body. Horrified, Marcus backs away to take an extended look at the disfigured deer out of shock before turning away and scampering off.
Lynda meets with the medium her sister recommended named Marcie (Dee Wallace) who offers to perform a seance to communicate with Paul. While admittedly uncomfortable, Lynda agrees to keep her mind open and listens as Marcie asks questions aloud waiting to receive a response. Once Marcie claims that she has found their guest, Lynda becomes frightened, uncertain whether she's being conned or genuinely making contact from beyond the grave. Marcie starts asking specific questions that only Paul can answer, and when the two fail to hear back anything "through the static", Lynda starts to get up asserting that she can't deal with this, but Marcie aggressively grabs her hand and insists that she now must remain at the table since they've started. As the communication resumes, Marcie is told that Paul and Lynda shared coffee on the morning of his death and that Lynda suffered slight back pain, which she enthusiastically confirms are both accurate. After Marcie claims that Paul was expecting to have a "special" evening with Lynda once he arrived home from work, Lynda suddenly lights up with astonishment and a tinge of embarrassment, entirely convinced that she must be in her husband's presence. She asks Marcie if Paul is safe wherever he's at, and Marcie, speaking on behalf of Paul, proclaims that she never has to worry about him, and that Paul has left her something important in the mail. Overjoyed by her experience, Lynda thanks Marcie for doing this and offers some money, but Marcie generously refuses to accept and Lynda cheerfully leaves to obtain Paul's alleged gift. Shortly after Lynda's departure, Marcie unexpectedly begins to hear ominous messages telling her that something wicked will befall Lynda and her son.
Marcus gets a ride home from Brett, along with Jay who's in the backseat enjoying one of his e-cigarettes. As Marcus is getting ready to exit the car after thanking Brett for giving him a ride, Brett takes the opportunity to give his condolences to his best friend and tells him he will always be there for him, and just as he's about to take his leave, Marcus turns around and embraces Brett lovingly. Feeling left out, Jay leans over to encompass Marcus and Brett in a group hug. Slinging his book bag over one shoulder, Marcus says his goodbyes to the two and makes his way inside his home, where he sees his mother holding something closely to her heart out of obvious affection. He asks her what she's got and Lynda ardently tells him about her meeting with the psychic who channeled Paul's spirit through a seance. Marcus immediately scoffs at his mother's claim telling her she was scammed for her ignorance, prompting Lynda to hold up an envelope that Marcie affirmed to be a gift from Paul. When asked by a skeptical Marcus what's inside the envelope, Lynda states, with joyful tears welling in her eyes along with a wide smile, that it says "Daddy still loves us!" before emptying out over a thousand dollars in life insurance. Marcus is in disbelief at all the cash his father saved up for he and his mother, while Lynda, stunned by her husband's continuance of caring after his family, promises him that they can still have a relationship with Paul even though he's no longer in physical existence. Marcus wants to believe in his mother's extreme assertion, but is still hampered by doubt.
In the middle of the night, Marcus is aroused from his sleep by the faint cries of his mother. He gets out of bed and sees Jake spread out on his blue chair, likewise disturbed by the low, feeble sounds echoing from nearby. As he steps outside his bedroom, Marcus follows the direction of his mom's weeping and grows horrified once he notices a puddle of blood pouring out of the bottom slot of the bathroom door in addition to shards of glass. Slowly opening the door, Marcus pokes his head inside the bathroom to discover Lynda sprawled on the floor, cutting into her arm with a broken piece of glass from an empty wine bottle and whimpering in distress. Unable to keep quiet, Marcus gasps in horror and Lynda shouts at him as loudly as possible to get out. Startled, Marcus instinctively shuts the door and walks rapidly back into his bedroom, where he slams the door shut and dives into his bed underneath the covers, shivering with fear.
The following morning, Marcus wanders into the kitchen and sees his mother sitting at the table drinking her morning cup of coffee while staring off in a daze. After he pours himself a cup, Marcus awkwardly sits down across from Lynda and struggles to avoid making eye contact. Lynda apologizes for her psychotic breakdown in the bathroom and expresses how mortified she is that he had to find her like that, but Marcus is so restless he stops himself from saying anything, not even wanting to ask why she was doing what she did to herself. Lynda then faintly reveals that she was trying to make contact once again with Paul, only this time she failed to get a response, angering her into getting drunk and harming herself out of maudlin self-pity. As she covers up her self-inflicted scars, Marcus takes his mother's hand and tenderly kisses the cuts on her arm.
Lynda drives Marcus to a community center in order to meet with a therapist, much to his objection. She asserts that he hasn't been coping with his father's passing and that he must communicate with somebody in regard to how he is feeling, reminding him that he gets to skip school in exchange. Frustrated, Marcus gets out of the car and meets with a therapist who proceeds to ask him questions about his interior life as well as his relationships with friends and family. While initially resistant to psychological probing, Marcus slowly begins to open up about his strong attachment to his parents, his severe distaste toward modern communication and a suppressed guilt he's been nurturing about the fraught relationship between his mother and aunt Mary. He discusses the difficulties he's been faced with since his father died and fears that his connection to his mother is only going to worsen as time goes on. As the therapist tries digging deeper into Marcus' psyche, Marcus decides he has had enough and walks out. He becomes silently hysterical and calls Brett begging for a ride, and once he pulls up outside the building, Marcus hops in the passenger seat, snatches a can of beer from the glove compartment and slugs it straight back. Brett advises him against having his first drink inside of his vehicle, but Marcus insists that he just wants to forget about everything and have some fun for a change.
While Lynda is relaxing on her couch with a glass of wine, Lorraine makes an unexpected arrival at the front door. Lynda invites her in with contrived joviality and tells her to make herself comfortable in the living room, even offering her a cold beverage which Lorraine politely refuses. As the two women sit across from one another in undeniable discomfort, Lorraine expresses her sympathy for Paul's untimely death and apologizes for attending neither the funeral nor the subsequent shiva, claiming that she would have felt too out of place. Lynda gradually becomes intoxicated during the conversation and begins accusing Lorraine of having an affair with her husband, provoking Lorraine to vehemently deny such improper behavior. Defensive, she guarantees Lynda that she and Paul were merely good friends who worked professionally together, but a mentally deteriorating Lynda further insists upon her belief that they were fooling around every time Paul claimed he was working late and brazenly hurls racial insults at Lorraine before ordering her to get out of her house. As Lynda excuses herself from the room and goes upstairs, Lorraine sits open-mouthed, paralyzed in incredulity.
At a group hangout in Brett's backyard, Marcus nervously takes his first bong hit and suffers an immediate coughing spell, signaling some of Brett's pothead friends that he has never smoked before. Determined to fit in with Brett's crowd, Marcus begins smoking over and over again to get the hang of it and boldly chugs the rest of Charlie's beer, arousing admiration among some but creating a concern for Brett. Charlotte (Jessica Sula), Jay's girlfriend, comforts Marcus over the loss of his father and shares a tragic story of her own in which her brother was gunned down during a robbery. Growing uncomfortable, Brett changes the subject by exclaiming how fortunate he feels that he and his closest friends are all together. Marcus and Brett reminisce about their days together in high school and express their mutual longing to relive all the eventful times they shared. Suddenly, Brynn shows up at the party and Marcus becomes tense, realizing that Brett invited her behind his back. Joey (), a misanthropic antisocial acquaintance of Marcus and Brett's, catches a field mouse roaming the yard and publicly severs its tail with a homemade knife, causing Marcus to become disgusted. He rushes back into the house, and Brynn follows him. Marcus explains how much it pains him to witness an animal get harmed and begins to cry, so Brynn sits him down and offers to stay with him as long he needs. Marcus assuredly confesses that he's had a crush on her for years and was always too afraid to say anything out of fear she would reject him. Flattered, Brynn leans forward and ambushes him with a full-hearted kiss on the lips.
As Marcus rides home on his scooter, he decides to stop off at an empty playground and chills out on a swing. While swinging leisurely back and forth, reveling in the fresh air and peaceful, nostalgic atmosphere, he looks over to notice a figure, shadowed by the blackness of the sky, watching him from a distance. Once he stamps his feet into the mulch, Marcus stares back at the shadowy figure in speechless trepidation until his swing jerks forward out of nowhere, startling him into clutching the chains and turning around to see if anyone is behind him, but there isn't. Marcus returns his attention to the front of the playground and to his bewilderment finds that the figure has vanished. Filled with dread, he gets off the swing, grabs his scooter and rides off rapidly into the night, observing all the passing bushes and dark corners with a feeling of unending restlessness. Marcus finally makes it to his block, and while riding along the sidewalk just inches away from his house, he hears a mysterious voice whisper his name. Marcus turns around with a start and stares horrified down the vacant street, cold tears streaming down his face. He looks toward a large bush in his neighbor's front yard and believes someone to be lurking in it, so a petrified Marcus leaves his scooter behind and makes a run for it the rest of the way home. He runs inside, locks the door and stares through the window momentarily to ensure that nobody is watching him. After taking a breath, Marcus turns around and gasps in shock at the sight of his mother standing before him, appearing glassy with bloodshot eyes. He stares back at Lynda with palpable discomfort and asks if she's okay, and with a sense of detachment she asks where he has been all night. Marcus tells her he was with Brett, and Lynda simply instructs him to get some sleep since it's so late. Marcus finds himself rooted to the doorway with overwhelming unease and watches his mother as she trudges drunkenly up the stairs.
Marcus sits on the edge of his bed, exhausted but uncertain about falling asleep just yet. He suddenly reaches into his pocket and pulls out the homemade knife Joey had used earlier to sever the mouse's tail, gawking at it with a confounded expression indicating he completely forgot that he had stolen it. Marcus then hears the sound of his mother whispering to herself, muffled through the wall, so he hides the knife underneath his bed before moving next door to check on her. As soon as he enters, Lynda breaks off, suppressing a giggle with difficulty. Marcus asks her who she was just talking to, and Lynda tells him that his father came into her room and began having a conversation with her. Marcus uneasily assures her that his father is not in the room with them, but she remains convinced that Paul has found a way to return from the grave. Lynda asks Marcus to sleep with her for the night, insisting that she has had trouble falling asleep ever since Paul died. While intensely uncomfortable at the request, Marcus thoughtfully climbs into bed beside his mother. Lynda nestles up against Marcus and expresses how badly she missed sleeping with both of her boys, and unable to come up with a response, Marcus falls silent and stares up at the ceiling, craving for the morning sun to arise.
While Lynda is in a deep sleep, Marcus silently gets out of bed and sneaks out of the house, wandering off to the cemetery where his father was buried. He sits down in front of Paul's headstone and begins to quietly talk to him, progressively breaking down in tears as he communicates his love for his father and expresses how much he misses having him in his life. Marcus also confides that his mother is starting to frighten him with her delusions about making contact with his spirit and doesn't know what to do to help her, apologizing for his inability to be the strong-minded, resilient son his father had always expected him to be. Eventually Marcus receives some sort of response from an unseen source that only he can comprehend. Focusing in awe at the headstone before him, Marcus starts speaking determinedly to the invisible entity who he believes is his dad, asking him what it feels like to be living under the ground and hearing back that it's very cold down there. While at first elated at having communicated with "Paul" from beyond the grave, Marcus' amazement and relief soon turn to unease as the seemingly benevolent spirit asks him to commit a heinous offense. When Marcus tearfully refuses to comply with the spirit's depraved request, it bargains with him to do what it is telling him in exchange for bringing his father back to life.
Marcus awakens in the morning, having slept on the ground above his father's grave, and progresses slowly back to his home. Once he approaches his destination, he looks down and in a state of surprise sees his scooter waiting for him on the doorstep. Placing the scooter beside his bench, Marcus enters his home and calls out for his mother, traveling upstairs to find her still asleep in bed. Not wanting to disturb her, Marcus covers Lynda in a blanket and gently holds her hand as she sleeps. He then looks under the bed and discovers a half-empty wine bottle, making him upset. Marcus snatches up the bottle and storms off into the backyard where he vehemently smashes it against the side of the garbage can while throwing it away, cutting his hand in the process. Marcus lets out a wail and grasps his wrist to stop the bleeding. After pulling the shard of glass free from his hand, Marcus views it with a sudden flash of morbid curiosity before dragging the shard slowly across his forearm. When Brett subsequently drives up along the sidewalk to take Marcus to school, Marcus quickly drops the shard and hustles back inside to wash the blood off his arm and hand and to grab his book bag.
During their drive, Marcus appears distant as he stares out the window without uttering a sound. Brett asks him if everything is okay and if he would like to talk about something, but a pensive Marcus simply shakes his head and tucks his slashed arm against his stomach. Unable to bear the silence any longer, Brett voices his opinion that Marcus should be learning to drive since he's almost twenty and will enjoy the freedom of being able to get himself to school, insisting that he cannot continue to allow fear to hold him back. Defiant to his real-world advice, Marcus extracts earbuds from his backpack and blots out the sound of Brett's voice with music, mildly offending him.
While Marcus is sitting in science class, entranced by a scalpel that's been placed on his desk, he overhears Noah muttering hurtful remarks about him to a fellow classmate. Growing intensely irritated, Marcus spontaneously grabs the scalpel, swings around and stabs Noah in the eye, shocking himself out of his apparent trance and causing him to back away into the corner of the room. Marcus' face becomes contorted with horror as Noah screams in agony, when suddenly the teacher asks him what's wrong. Marcus looks over at the teacher in horrified bewilderment before turning back to face Noah, only to realize that he never stabbed him. As the entire class stares at Marcus with confused, derisive faces, Marcus pulls himself together and gives a quivering apology for his disturbance before walking out.
While Marcus is working on his fan fiction, Lynda enters his bedroom unannounced to tell him to come downstairs for dinner. He dismissively insists that he is close to completing his narrative and must slam his entire body and being into his characters, causing Lynda to lose her patience telling him he can work on his story later because the Cooperman's have made dinner for them. Feeling cornered, Marcus publishes what he's written and unwillingly escorts his mother to the dining room.
At dinner, Gerald jovially asks Marcus what his plans are for the future and what he's been up to, to which Marcus reveals he has been writing fan fiction narratives on his spare time and plans to display them someday to somebody who can jump-start his career as a screenwriter. Lynda mentions that Marcus is an incredibly gifted storyteller and has faith he will become something special, but wishes he would spend more time on his schoolwork and less with his trouble-making friends. Sylvia begins digging up past memories about she and Gerald babysitting Marcus and how he felt like their very own child, which Gerald agrees with, claiming he was a remarkably calm, cooperative baby very easy to take care of. Marcus becomes embarrassed by the sentimental chatter in front of him and begins clawing his fingers into his trouser leg, hidden away from the three underneath the table. When Gerald opens up about his close relationship with Paul, driven to tears at the notion of never seeing him again, Marcus gets angry but doesn't say anything. Lynda starts sipping her champagne as she listens to Gerald speak of her husband, flashing a forced smile now and again to conceal the sorrow building within.
Marcus returns to his writing and finds himself struggling for the right words to complete a sentence. He types an assortment of phrases but hopelessly deletes each one of them, unable to attain a sense of satisfaction. Defeated by sheer frustration, Marcus yanks the keyboard with such force that it becomes disconnected from its inner cable. Suffering a severe meltdown, he tosses the keyboard across his room, smacking hard against the wall, and violently swipes all of his childlike objects off his desk. Seizing the homemade knife underneath the bed, Marcus stabs it repeatedly into the walls before tearing up the wallpaper and slamming his serendipity lamp to the floor. Having reached the pinnacle of his freak-out, a hyperventilating Marcus screams "Fuck you, God!" at the top of his lungs to the ceiling. He stands unmoving amid the destruction catching his breath and leaves the knife protruding from the wall.
Lynda sits in her car parked outside of a liquor store, staring intently at the front door watching as people move in and out, mentally debating whether she wants to go in or not. After a moment of deliberation, she takes her key out of the ignition with perceptible guilt and enters the store to purchase some beer. Upon returning home, Lynda calls out for Marcus but he doesn't give a response. Feeling something is amiss, she idles upstairs and walks into Marcus' bedroom without even knocking, finding the room with books, papers and other childish objects strewn all over the floor, wallpaper hanging from the ceiling, and Marcus sitting upright in bed. Lynda asks in dismay what he has done, unable to comprehend the disaster surrounding her, to which Marcus replies with eerie calmness that he was sick of looking at his furniture and playthings from when he was a baby. Infuriated at having to spend money on repairing the room, Lynda explodes in a torrent of abuse directed at Marcus, criticizing him for his lack of compassion for anybody besides himself, and for doing nothing with his life except hiding away in his bedroom writing fan fiction. Marcus remains still in his bed, taking in his mother's malicious remarks as tears begin to well in his eyes. Lynda then pulls the homemade knife out of the wall and forcefully plunges it into a fresh spot, telling Marcus that he isn't the only one harboring anger around the house. Finally, she orders him to clean up his mess before storming out of the bedroom and slamming the door behind her.
Lynda stomps off downstairs and takes a moment to compose herself, soon directing her desperate eyes toward the case of beer she had just purchased and set down. Slumped against the sofa drowning her frustrations, Lynda slowly turns to find her cat Jake scuttling into the living room to approach her. She joyfully welcomes him to jump up on her lap and reaches out a hand, but instead Jake growls at her as he backs away in odd agitation. Concerned, Lynda leans forward and gently encourages him to sit with her as she extends her arm further, but this only provokes Jake to scratch her arm with his claws. While Marcus is cleaning his room and putting his strewn items in boxes, he hears Jake hissing and becomes nervous. Marcus walks steadily down the stairs and apprehensively enters the living room, where to his distress he sees his mother being clawed at repeatedly by an exasperated Jake as she giggles psychotically. Marcus quickly picks Jake up and pulls him away before rushing into the kitchen for paper towels. He hurtles urgently back into the living room and tends his mother's bleeding arm, frantically asking why she was allowing Jake to cut her, but she is too inebriated to give a coherent response. As Marcus presses the paper towels firmly against Lynda's wound, Lynda wipes a speck of blood from her arm and smears it above her upper lip to resemble a mustache, breaking into a fit of deranged laughter while Marcus looks at her with helplessness and despondency.
While Marcus is lying beside his mother in her bed, absorbed in serious thought, he ultimately creeps out of the house through his backdoor and wanders off into the night. At the nearby cemetery, a gravedigger named Andrews ( ) spots Marcus sitting atop his father's grave and calls out for him, but Marcus deliberately chooses not to answer. Annoyed, Andrews walks up to Marcus and demands that he leaves the graveyard, claiming that he should be home sleeping at this hour, but Marcus remains in front of Paul's tombstone whispering that he is going to "do it". When a confused Andrews asks what it is he is going to do, Marcus turns around in a demonic frenzy and slashes him across the throat with Joey's homemade knife. Dropping to his knees in shock while blood pours out of his throat, Andrews attempts to crawl away but Marcus hovers over him and stabs him multiple times in the back and neck, letting out an insane shout of anger with each penetration. Afterward, Marcus looks down at the gravedigger's bloody, lifeless corpse with a warped combination of horror, relief and gratification before casually walking away.
The following morning, Marcus awakens in his own bed with little memory of what he has done. Looking around his bedroom, still in disarray from his tantrum, he sees droplets of blood across the floor and reaches under the bed to find Joey's homemade knife marked with blood, alerting him that what he experienced was neither a nightmare nor a delusion. Horrified by the realization of his action, Marcus walks out of his room and takes a quick glance inside his mother's, seeing to his relief that she isn't there, before charging into the bathroom where he washes off the blood on the knife in the sink. He then snatches a towel hanging from the door and hurries back in his room to wipe the blood off the floor, closing his eyes and breathing heavily in disquiet.
Marcus spends the evening at Joey's apartment privately sulking over the crime he's committed with a guilt-suppressing cup of liquor. Brett tells everyone that Andrews the gravedigger was brutally murdered the previous night and the police haven't found any clues as to who could've done it. Joey keeps himself occupied playing a video game, joining in the conversation halfheartedly with the suggestion that a serial killer may be lurking in the cemetery killing anyone who enters at night. Charlotte becomes irritated by his cavalier attitude and tells him she is gravely disturbed by the sadistic nature of the murder, to which Joey insensitively remarks that her skin is so dark the killer would have a difficult time spotting her in the nighttime anyway. He also mentions that his knife has been missing for a few days and has no idea what happened to it. Following an unexpected knock at the door, Brett looks outside the window and sees a police car stationed in front of the apartment, sending the group into a panic. Officer Wilson (Trey Burvant) announces his presence and asks for someone to let him in, and Brett thoughtlessly tells him he needs a minute to put some clothes on. Joey, Jay, Brett and Marcus hide their alcohol under the couch and in the refrigerator while Charlotte and Brynn shake out their marijuana joints and clear away the smoke. Once Wilson comes in, he informs the kids that he is aware of their drinking and smoking but isn't there to bust them for that, rather to question them about Andrews' murder. As Marcus and his friends stay put struggling to affect casualness, Wilson searches through Joey's duffel bag and uncovers his homemade knife. Flabbergasted, Joey insists that his knife was missing for days and surmises that someone must have stolen it and planted it in his bag to incriminate him. Officer Wilson asks him to come with him to the station so he can be interrogated, believing Joey to be a suspect in the murder, but Joey refuses to cooperate and a fight ensues between them. As Wilson forcefully removes Joey from his apartment in handcuffs, Joey screamingly declares his innocence and angrily affirms that somebody in the room has framed him. Once Wilson and Joey have both vacated the apartment, Marcus, Brett, Jay, Charlotte and Brynn withdraw into sullen silence as they stare at one another in traumatized disbelief.
Later that night, Marcus gets a phone call from a heartbroken Brett, who informs him that the police found traces of dry blood on Joey's knife and consequently arrested him under suspicion of Andrews' murder. Racked with guilt, Marcus plays it cool and asks Brett if he honestly believes Joey could have done something like this, to which Brett resoundingly denies, admitting that Joey has always behaved bizarrely but doesn't think he could be capable of taking someone's life. As Marcus nods his head and agrees falsely, Brett notices a slight tremble in his voice, prompting Marcus to abruptly end the conversation.
He sits out on his porch and Jay merrily rides his bicycle up the driveway, having been invited to hang out. As the two sit beside each other making somewhat stilted conversation, Marcus urges Jay to have a drink with him expressing how much fun it would be for them to get drunk together. However, Jay insists that he must be home by midnight or else his father will be angry with him, but after Marcus gives a disappointed expression of understanding, Jay reluctantly gives in and accepts his offer. Marcus discovers his mother passed out on the living room couch and sneaks into the bar where he steals one of her bottles of red wine. At Marcus' request, Jay goes down in the basement while Marcus takes out a pair of glasses and pours a little wine into each, crushing a few sleeping pills and mixing them in with Jay's beverage.
After Marcus returns to the basement with the drinks, he and Jay sit and chat as they consume their red wine. Jay mentions how difficult it is for him to stop thinking about Joey and whether or not he butchered the gravedigger, then on a more playful note exclaims his sadness at not being able to play video games at Joey's crib anymore. Marcus abruptly changes the topic to Jay's mother, asking him if she is successfully overcoming her breast cancer, and Jay informs him that she is currently in remission. He becomes uncomfortable thinking about it and states that he prefers not to talk about his mother too much at the risk of having a nervous breakdown. Throughout the course of their discussion, Jay begins to feel woozy and starts slurring his words. He staggers to his feet only to plop back down on the divan and slowly lose consciousness, unknowingly being gazed at by Marcus with cold, piercing eyes. After taking one last sip of the red wine, Marcus makes his way behind an insensible Jay and places both hands firmly around his neck, squeezing the life out of him. Jay suddenly awakens to the pressure on his throat and struggles with his attacker, flailing his arms helplessly as he runs out of breath. After a short struggle, Marcus overpowers his suffering friend with unfair superior strength, looking with sadistic enthusiasm into his eyes before they go dead.
Marcus drags Jay's body up the staircase, across the kitchen floor and outside through the backdoor, sneaking stealthily past his mother as she remains comatose in the living room. He carries Jay to the end of the backyard and leaves his body near the shed. Marcus then goes inside the shed and gives a thoughtful look up and down the walls in search of the proper tool for the job, ultimately selecting a carving knife. Arriving back outside, Marcus gets down on his knees and cuts open Jay's torso with the carving knife, sinking both hands deep within his abdomen and removing his organs individually, which he then places in trash bags. Marcus dismembers the body with a hacksaw, buries the limbs in the back garden and disposes of Jay's remains in the bathtub filled with hydrofluoric acid. Afterward he brings the trash bags containing Jay's organs to his father's gravesite announcing that he has followed its instructions and even sacrificed a close friend in exchange for Paul's revival. Furthermore, Marcus admits that while at first he was terrified by the thought of killing somebody, he has grown to find the experience exhilarating.
When Lynda wakens from her slumber, she hears the creaking of the front door as it opens and becomes anxious, calling out for Marcus but failing to summon a response. Upon walking into the entrance hall, Lynda finds the door standing ajar and nervously closes it all the way before slowly making her way up the stairs and toward Marcus' bedroom, where she thankfully finds him sleeping safe and sound in his bed. After Lynda goes outback to take out the trash, she finds herself confronted by a nauseating stench emanating from the garden that permeates the entire backyard. As she approaches the garden in hope of finding the source of the ghastly smell, Marcus appears out of the blue on the concrete patio and asks her what she's doing, frightening Lynda into turning around with a jolt. Lynda asks him if he also smells the wretched odor lingering in the air, but he nonchalantly dismisses it as merely a malfunction in their next-door neighbor's barbecue and recommends that she comes inside, concluding that she must be undergoing a hangover and needs to sleep it off. Lynda looks at Marcus dubiously, taken aback by the indifference in his tone, before hesitantly complying.
Katie is having a sleepover with Noah at her house while her parents are away, and as the young couple share a bittersweet discussion concerning their plans for the future following graduation, Noah becomes upset at the realization that he doesn't know what he wants to do with his life and that Katie is planning to leave for California to begin a career in acting. In order to conceal his anxiety, Noah cuts their chat short and begins kissing Katie passionately, seductively pressing her down on the sofa and positioning himself on top of her. As they cuddle up and make out more eagerly, Noah starts groping Katie and in discomfort she pushes his hand away. Aggressively, he lifts up her blouse to acquire an intimate feel of her breast, but Katie rejects his amorous advances and is forced to admit she doesn't want to have sex. Angered by his girlfriend's rejection, Noah accuses her of having feelings for someone else despite Katie's promise that she simply doesn't want to lose her virginity only because their relationship is reaching its end. Noah points out that he caught her giving an affectionate look to Marcus when he ruined their picnic, inflaming Katie to deny having a crush on him - however, she does put forward that he didn't have to be such a jerk to Marcus. Having had enough, Katie storms off to her bedroom angrily telling Noah to get out of her home. As Noah lies back on the couch, ashamed of the way he had behaved, Marcus sneaks up behind him and slashes his throat with a steak knife, covering his head with a pillowcase.
Upon hearing the guttural sound in Noah's breathing, Katie steps out of her bedroom to ask him what he is doing and comes across the gruesome display of Noah's body slumped against the cushions, blood gushing out of his neck and a pillowcase shielding his face as Marcus stands behind him cold-blooded. She screams in horror at the morbid sight and flees back to her room, locking the door and backing away into the corner, unsure of how to defend herself against the approaching evil. Downstairs, Marcus casually drops the knife on the floor and ascends the staircase in a series of flying leaps. Arriving outside of Katie's bedroom, he turns the knob to find that the door is locked, so in a demonic fit of exasperation Marcus slams his body against the door strenuously over and over until it is pushed off its hinges and collapses to the ground. He enters and looks around for Katie, who has seemingly vanished. After checking underneath the bed, Marcus notices one of the windows is open and considers that she might have escaped, making him infuriated. A slight bang interrupts the quietness of the night, resulting in Marcus opening the doors of the wardrobe to find a terrified Katie cowering inside. He escorts her to her bed, ties her hands behind her back with a scarf and puts a pillowcase over her head, demanding to know where he can find any valuables. Katie tells him her parents have a small box of money stashed away but doesn't know where, and while Marcus ransacks the house Katie manages to get her hands unshackled. Marcus re-enters the bedroom and sees that Katie is no longer sitting on her bed, suddenly emerging from the corner and smashing him over the head with a lamp. She runs into her parents' bedroom and retrieves a shotgun from underneath their bed. As an unsteady Marcus pursues her inside the room, Katie aims the gun at him and pulls the trigger, only to realize it isn't loaded. Marcus walks toward Katie and tussles with her for the shotgun, finally disarming her and whacking her on the forehead. Katie in her stunned state makes a desperate attempt to crawl away from him, but her effort quickly proves useless as Marcus clobbers her over the head repeatedly with the butt of the shotgun. He then uses Katie's scarf to wipe up some of the blood from her wounds and writes messages on the walls requesting his father's resurrection ("Is this good enough?", "Am I finished yet?" and "Deliver") and paints an upside-down cross on the refrigerator door.
While Brett is cruising around the streets, he finds Marcus strolling along the sidewalk illuminated only by the glare of street lamps. Pulling over onto the side of the curb, Brett rolls his window down and asks what he is doing in the dark all by himself, to which a traumatized Marcus replies that he decided to go for a jog before bed. Bewildered, Brett offers to drive him home and Marcus hesitantly accepts, getting inside the car and remaining eerily quiet throughout the ride. Brett checks on him to ensure that he's not in any sort of trouble, assuring him that if something's wrong he can confide in him, but Marcus softly tells him that everything is alright and explains that he just got back from visiting his father's grave at the cemetery, deceptively justifying his muted, somber demeanor. Brett pulls up outside Marcus' house ready to drop him off when, at the last moment, Marcus changes his mind and asks Brett if he can spend the night at his house, confiding that he and his mother have been going through problems and desperately need some time apart. Caught between a mixture of understanding and entrapment, Brett warmly gives his grieving friend permission to stay with him for the night and drives off back to his crib.
After arriving at Brett's home, Marcus notices that nobody is there except the two of them, inducing Brett to reveal that Charlie is staying with their father for the weekend and his mother is out of town with her boyfriend. Marcus volunteers to sleep in the guest room but at Brett's insistence retires with him into his bedroom and settles into Charlie's bed on the opposite side of the room. Brett makes an obscene crack about his brother's bodily hygiene, warning Marcus to sleep with his legs elevated at the risk of contracting Charlie's "fungal feet", causing Marcus to laugh for the first in a long time. Throughout the course of his restless night, Marcus opens his eyes and turns to look at Brett, who is still asleep in his bed with his back turned. Unable to resist a powerful impulse, Marcus pulls his pants down and turns over on his stomach, submerging himself underneath the blanket, and commences rubbing his half-naked body against the mattress, uttering soft moans of pleasure as he stares sporadically at his slumbering best friend.
When Marcus wakes up the next morning, he sees Brett still resting and wanders into the kitchen where he begins making a pot of coffee. As he fills the coffee pot up with water, Marcus looks down to notice that his knuckles are bruised and becomes immensely disturbed. He walks back into Brett's bedroom and slowly approaches with a contorted face of dread, turning his unconscious friend over on his back to discover his chest smashed in and covered with black and blue marks. Realizing that he murdered Brett in a subconscious state, Marcus runs to the sink and vomits, collapsing on his knees and tearfully muttering an apology for his deviant behavior. In a panic, he rushes out to the nearest store and purchases a large trunk with which he conceals Brett's battered corpse. Marcus then lugs the body to a river where, after cradling Brett in his arms and giving him a farewell kiss on the forehead, he stabs Brett in the back with a knife he retrieved from his kitchen, attaches concrete blocks to his ankles, and jettisons his carcass into the water.
Meanwhile, Lynda is at home frantically trying to reach Marcus on his cellphone and beseeches him to tell her where he is and that he is safe. Shortly after she hangs up, Marcus enters the house and dawdles into the kitchen where he casually opens the refrigerator to grab a bottle of water, acting as if nothing is out of the ordinary. Incensed, Lynda reprimands Marcus for sneaking out in the middle of the night and not even having the decency to let her know where he was all morning. Marcus looks down at the floor silently for a moment with his hands buried inside his pockets before mumbling a halfhearted apology as he heedlessly walks past his exasperated mother.
That night in the dining room, Marcus and Lynda sit across from one another at the dinner table and eat their food in complete, excruciating silence. Struggling mightily to suffer through the tension, every so often Marcus glances up at his mother in a wordless plea to get some type of response out of her, but his efforts are in vain. However, Lynda seems much more cruelly content with the silence as she cuts into her slab of fish with an apathetic disregard for precision and proceeds to lazily scoop it by the sliver inside her mouth. In powerless desolation, Marcus watches her take periodic sips from her wine glass, wanting desperately to express his disapproval but finds himself too suffocated by timidity to open his mouth. Lynda keeps her eyes absentmindedly pinned to her plate as though he isn't there, never once raising her head to meet Marcus' piercing gaze. Marcus chews a mouthful of food slowly and just quietly enough to remain unheard, terrified that Lynda will lash out at him if she hears so much as a casual gulp. As the atmosphere in the room grows more and more impregnated with unexpressed bitterness, a gleam of hope appears in Marcus' eyes when he believes Lynda is finally on the cusp of giving in, only for his yearning to quickly shatter as Lynda reaches for her glass and takes another sip of red wine.
After dinner Marcus retreats to his bedroom and lies down on his bed, cuddling up to a catnapping Jake. While Lynda is in the kitchen washing the dishes, she hears a news report on the television about the macabre double homicide that occurred the previous night just a few blocks away. Horrified by the gruesome nature of the crime as well as the messages written around the home in one of the victim's blood, Lynda watches the news coverage in shock until the sudden ringing of the telephone startles her and fractures her concentration. She answers the phone to realize it is Brett's mother, whose voice is filled with concern as she informs Lynda that Brett is nowhere to be found and thought that he could possibly be hanging out with Marcus, to which a disconcerted Lynda regrettably replies that Marcus in his room and hasn't been with Brett all day. Running upstairs to find out what Marcus has been up to, Lynda knocks on his bedroom door and urgently calls his name but he doesn't answer, motivating her to barge into the room where she discovers both Marcus and Jake are missing. Lynda's mind begins racing and after taking a moment to think, a troubling realization settles upon her, causing her to turn around and race outside into the backyard. She grabs a shovel and starts digging a hole into the garden, frightfully determined to get to the source of the stomach-turning odor, and ultimately uncovers Jay's bare, severed leg sticking out of the dirt. Revolted, Lynda gasps and stumbles backward, falling heavily on her hands and knees to retch.
Marcus has returned to the cemetery and approaches his father's grave to affirm that he has done everything he was asked to do in order to see his resurrection. Waiting patiently to hear from the voice that has been commanding him to kill, Marcus swings his book bag off of his shoulders and reaches inside to reveal that he brought Jake with him. As he begins to receive an instruction that only he can understand, Marcus paces up and down in consternation while pleading with the entity to spare him from offering the latest sacrifice. Surrendering to the vicious task, Marcus gets down on his knees and embraces Jake tightly, smothering him with kisses as he tearfully proclaims his brotherly love for him. Marcus then grabs Jake by the neck and begins strangling him, causing him to growl and kick his legs up at Marcus in an aimless attempt to loosen his grip. Jake's squeals of pain shred at Marcus' nerves, but he merely shuts his eyes in anguish and tightens his hold on his throat, eventually snapping his neck. Jake's legs go limp and Marcus reopens his eyes before gently dropping his body to the ground, staring down at his dead brother with an expressionless face as he stifles tears.
Lynda shovels the dirt back over Jay's severed limbs in the garden, having decided against calling the police on Marcus and exposing him for his crimes. Thereafter Marcus sneaks into his house via the backdoor and creeps upstairs, casting a brief look inside his mother's bedroom from behind the door to notice that she isn't sleeping in her bed. Disquieted, Marcus tiptoes back downstairs and wanders nervously through the darkened house in search for Lynda, softly calling out for her without getting a response. When Marcus turns on the light in the kitchen, Lynda is stealthily standing behind him in the foyer, clad in a white nightgown and ominously wielding a steel-bladed kitchen chopper. Sensing his mother's presence, Marcus turns around with a start and asks her what she's doing, to which Lynda, who has slipped entirely into madness, asks him repeatedly and forcefully what he has done with Jake. Marcus stares at her in speechless entrapment before breaking down in tears and confesses that he has murdered Jake and in addition five people after making a pact with a supernatural spirit to bring his father back to life. As he progresses toward her, Lynda instinctively recoils and slashes Marcus across his face with the chopper. Devastated by his mother's betrayal as he watches the blood pour ceaselessly down his cheek, Marcus grabs her arms desperately and begs her to believe that he did what he did in order for them to get their lives back as a family. Refusing to listen to her son's ostensibly deranged belief, Lynda pulls away from him and slices frantically at the palm of his hand, instigating a struggle between the two which culminates in Marcus grabbing hold of the chopper and stabbing it into Lynda's neck. After watching his mother fall lifelessly onto the floor, Marcus lies down beside her body and goes to sleep with an arm draped affectionately across her chest.
The next morning, Marcus is woken from his sleep by the telephone but elects to let it ring. As Sylvia starts to leave a message on the answering machine for Lynda -- imparting that Gerald is going to be working all day at the synagogue giving lessons for a bar mitzvah and was wondering if she and Marcus would like some company -- Marcus picks up the phone and invites her over to the house for dinner and a movie. He thereupon applies a bandage to his slashed cheek and wipes the puddles of blood from his and his mother's wounds off the foyer floor with numerous towels.
When Sylvia arrives later in the evening, Marcus, who has put together meatloaf and Spanish rice, greets her at the door with a hug and tells her that Lynda is upstairs resting and will be joining them for dinner momentarily. He takes his seat at the dinner table and kindly gestures Sylvia to sit down with him for a chat, but feeling slightly awkward by her young host's unusually cheerful attitude, Sylvia asks if she should check on Lynda to make sure she's feeling alright, only for Marcus to reassure her that his mother needed to get some extra sleep due to her constant stress and should be coming down any second. Sylvia questions Marcus in regard to how he's been holding up since she last saw him and restates her love for him and Lynda, insisting that she would do anything for them. Marcus informs her that it has been a deeply painful struggle getting along without his father, but believes that everything is finally starting to come together. In an abrupt change of subject matter, Marcus starts recalling a traumatic experience from his childhood in which Sylvia lured him into her bedroom and sexually assaulted him, threatening that something bad would happen to his parents if he ever told somebody. Growing increasingly unsettled, Sylvia denies any recollection of such a heinous offense and excuses herself anxiously to find Lynda. She walks briskly up the stairs and into Lynda's bedroom to discover her corpse underneath the blanket of her bed, prompting a horrified Sylvia to clasp a hand over her mouth and stagger backwards toward the doorway just as Marcus silently enters the room and stabs her in the back with a kitchen knife. As Sylvia writhes about on the floor in agony, Marcus kneels down and thanks her for serving as his final sacrifice, then proceeds to chastise her for the pain and confusion she inflicted on him as a child.
In the kitchen, a mentally disconnected Marcus extracts a hunk of meatloaf from the baking dish and begins to scoop Spanish rice onto his plate before transferring to the dining room where he sits at the head of the table. There, he proceeds to casually eat his dinner alongside the sacrificially-arranged corpses of Sylvia -- whose body has been propped against the chair with her head dangling lifelessly from the top rail -- and Lynda -- who lies face down on the edge of the table at the opposite end. In a severely delusional state, Marcus turns to Sylvia and starts talking to her as if she were still alive, granting her permission to eat her food and insists that she pays no attention to his mother, who he claims is "still feeling a little tired". Worried that he overcooked the meat or burnt the rice, Marcus informs his deceased guests that this was his first time cooking dinner and grows angry with himself over the possibility that he failed at his attempt. As the reality of what he's done begins to sink in, Marcus slows down on his eating and takes a sip of water, only to let it dribble out of his mouth in quivering self-disgust. He swipes his filled plate clear off the table in a fit of temper and bursts into tears, subsequently rising from his seat to grab Lynda's corpse which he drags with him into a corner. A heartbroken Marcus cradles his mother in his arms and weeps over her body, when suddenly he hears the backdoor creak as it mysteriously opens, followed by footsteps that move slowly forward. Marcus looks up at the unseen individual and smiles.
Jordan Pressler as Marcus Ascher - A kindhearted yet introverted boy of nineteen who lives a comfortable life in a quiet suburban neighborhood with his parents Paul and Lynda, as well as his mackerel tabby cat Jake. Marcus is shy and socially disconnected from the majority of his generation, showing little interest in modern forms of communication and lacking the ability to approach and connect with people spontaneously. Though he attends a community college at the behest of his parents, Marcus' true passion is writing screenplays, which he displays by sitting in his bedroom for hours a day writing articles on a fan-fiction database - currently working on a coming-of-age narrative about a young boy who feels misplaced in the world he was born in to. However, he often finds himself falling victim to an exasperating case of writer's block and receives occasional ridicule from his father, who dismisses and trivializes his son's writings as "play" since it doesn't provide income. While Marcus shares his most intimate relationship with his parents, he is also best friends with brothers Brett and Charlie, who live in the same neighborhood just a few blocks away, and Jay, a perpetual vape-smoking acquaintance from high school. At school, he harbors affection for a beautiful girl named Brynn in his English class, but is too timid to tell her how he feels. After his father dies in a tragic car accident, Marcus becomes extremely withdrawn and crippled by grief, his social and emotional health deteriorating rapidly. He watches helplessly as his home life crumbles around him, losing communication with his mother who devolves into alcoholism, devoting less interest in his school work and struggling tenfold with his inability to write.
Drew Barrymore as Lynda Ascher - She is the adoring mother of Marcus and the devoted wife of Paul. Lynda enjoys a comfortable life with her family in a middle-class suburban home where she works endlessly as a stay-at-home housewife, affectionately expressing her love for the three men in her life -- which includes a mackerel tabby cat named Jake who Marcus selected as their family pet years prior -- while always taking care of the house and providing dinner on a nightly basis. Her central hobby is reading conspiracy theories online about governmental secrets such as the use of toxic chemicals being released into the atmosphere to initiate a depopulation, but her concerns are met with derision and disinterest by Marcus and Paul. Unafraid to get a little goofy, Lynda will sometimes make silly faces to get her son to laugh or cheer up if he's feeling upset or annoyed. Although she tries to be supportive of Marcus' dream to become a writer, Lynda urges him to stay in school out of her belief that education is of primary importance. Following the unexpected death of her husband, Lynda finds herself struggling desperately to cope with the stress of raising her son all by herself and turns to alcohol for an escape -- putting a strain on their once-unbreakable relationship and causing her to grow more and more impatient with Marcus and his indifferent behavior.
Tim Roth as Paul Ascher - Marcus' father and Lynda's husband who works as a self-employed insurance agent. Paul is a hardworking, affectionate and loyal middle-class man driven by an unadulterated desire to provide for his family and assist others struggling through the agony of losing a loved one or approaching the uncertainty of retirement. Enriched with a sometimes scathing sense of humor, Paul will often belittle his wife's contributions to the household by insisting it is a woman's duty to take care of the house and provide dinner for her breadwinner husband every night when he comes home from work, though ultimately he lets it be known how much he loves and cherishes her. While he loves his son and wants nothing more than for him to have a bright future, Paul expresses disinterest in Marcus' passion for writing and criticizes him for favoring his fan-fiction articles over an actual paying job. He doesn't outright approve of Marcus' friends who come over the house periodically, being that they love to drink alcohol and smoke e-cigarettes, however, not wanting to cause a rift between his son and his few close buddies, he bites his tongue and tries to mitigate Lynda's concern.
Alex Esmail as Brett - Marcus' best friend who grew up in the same suburban neighborhood just a few blocks away with his divorcee mother, Claudia, and impressionable younger brother, Charlie. Brett is a long-haired, noticeably thin adolescent boy and a former student at the local high school, which he attended alongside Marcus as well as their close friends, Jay and Joey. Once well-known for being an exceptionally skillful artist in his preteen years, Brett has unfortunately gravitated toward a more rebellious lifestyle following his graduation, leaving behind his natural gift in exchange for getting high off of cigarettes, weed and whatever alcoholic beverages he can get his underage hands on. Despite his unhealthy interest in these self-destructive activities, Brett remains a supportive, goodhearted comrade to Marcus, always willing to drive him to school, listen to his private anxieties and even commend him for his refusal to surrender to peer pressure.
Blanche Baker as Sylvia Cooperman - Marcus and Lynda's neighbor and also the wife of Rabbi Gerald Cooperman. Sylvia is an elderly, silver-haired and boisterously friendly Jewish woman who, along with her husband, shares a long-standing friendship with the Ascher family and used to babysit for Paul and Lynda when Marcus was a child, something she loves to reminisce about whenever she encounters them. Sylvia is revealed to have one daughter - however, since she moved away to pursue a career in nursing, she finds herself falling victim to loneliness throughout the day and seeks comfort in Marcus and Lynda as though they were extended family. With her husband absent from home most of the day, Sylvia keeps herself occupied by cleaning the yard and taking care of their home, though she has agreed to volunteer at the synagogue on weekends. In spite of Sylvia's good-natured exterior and promise to always be there for Marcus and his mother, somehow Marcus finds something deeply unsettling about her character and feels inexplicably uncomfortable in her presence.
Richard Jenkins as Gerald Cooperman - Sylvia's husband and a rabbi employed by Temple Beth El, Gerald, while mostly absent from home during the daytime doing work for the congregation, is an affable, old-fashioned and affectionate patriarch who lives down the street from the Ascher family. He shares a lifelong friendship with Paul -- with whom he went to high school -- and therefore becomes deeply distressed at the news of his unexpected passing. Having babysat Paul's son, Marcus, throughout his childhood, Gerald feels a certain paternal responsibility toward Marcus and takes a thoughtful interest in his ambition to become a writer.
Amanda Warren as Lorraine Miller - Paul's longtime client and close friend, Lorraine is currently grappling with feelings of loneliness and depression brought on by her divorce -- but nevertheless manages to put on a cheerful smile every waking day thanks to the comfort of her Yorkshire terrier, whom she refers to as "the only man who could never walk out on [her]." Being that Paul has been her insurance agent for many years, Lorraine has put much of her trust in him and is always eager to pay a visit to his office, although Lynda has observed her allegedly flirtatious manner toward her husband. Lorraine becomes very giddy around Paul and expresses profound disappointment over the news that he will soon be forced to retire from his company, thus rendering her devoid of both a trustworthy agent and a nearby companion.
Kathryn Hahn as Mary - Lynda's older sister, Marcus' aunt and Paul's sister-in-law, Mary has been estranged from her family after she and Lynda had a falling-out - which culminated in Mary exclaiming a crude remark aimed at Lynda's husband. After finding out that Paul has died in a car accident, a heavily remorseful, watery-eyed Mary reappears unannounced in her sister's life, topped with a radiant smile that belies her severe shame and hopelessly awkward efforts to make amends, and begs her forgiveness out of a desire to reconcile. Having lost her own husband to a fatal heart attack 3 years ago, Mary is able to identify with Lynda's harrowing situation and confides in her that she had met a spiritual medium who helped her make contact with her late spouse's spirit and in turn brought about a resoundingly positive change in her demeanor.
Danielle Rose Russell as Brynn - Marcus' classmate and unrequited love interest. Brynn is a stunningly attractive yet deceptively intelligent and introverted young woman with striking blue eyes and a head of flowing auburn hair. In English class she sits at the back end of a row far away from Marcus, and as a result she is completely unaware of his feelings for her. In spite of her supermodel-like looks and vain habit of staring at herself in the mirror within her locker, Brynn shows to possess a sharp interest in literature, as evidenced by her eager and clear-eyed contribution to a Shakespeare debate, and is compassionate and empathetic towards Marcus when he becomes upset after witnessing an act of animal abuse.
Madisen Beaty as Katie - A fellow student at Marcus' community college and the girlfriend of insensitive bully Noah. Katie is friendly and kindhearted -- responding reasonably and with compassion after Marcus accidentally disturbs a picnic between she and her boyfriend -- in contrast to Noah, who responds by treating the downtrodden boy with cruelty and pummeling him with juvenile taunts. Though part of her still has love in her heart for him, Katie grows annoyed by Noah's immature and selfish behavior and is determined to start a new life for herself in California as an actress once she graduates. Ambitious, clear-thinking and principled, Katie would never go against her morals or do something she'd regret in order to make someone else happy - much to Noah's irritation.
TBA as Noah - Katie's boyfriend and an insensitive bully who targets Marcus at school for his quiet, socially awkward demeanor and for accidentally disrupting a picnic between he and his girlfriend one evening on campus. Noah seems to have very little patience or compassion for others, becoming quickly irritated over any sort of inconvenience and aggressive with Katie when she rejects his sexual advances. Beneath his macho tough exterior, however, exists a deeply insecure young man, struggling to find out what he wants to do with his life and terrified by the growing realization that Katie is going to leave him after they graduate to pursue a career in acting in California.
Dee Wallace as Marcie - An old psychic woman who works in a sequestered room in the back of an antique store, Marcie is recommended to Lynda Ascher by her sister, Mary, after she allegedly conjured up the spirit of Mary's deceased husband during a seance some years prior. While admittedly eccentric upon initial impression, Marcie proves herself well-meaning and genuinely caring toward her customers, showing emotional investment in their plights and dedicated to easing their pain by way of helping them make contact with their loved ones. She derives pleasure from instilling a sense of hope in those going through a state of despondency and displays an unusually stronger interest in succeeding at her spiritual work rather than profiting from it.
TBA as Charlie - Brett's seventeen-year-old brother who lives just a few blocks away from Marcus with Brett and their divorcee mother, Claudia -- with the exception of alternative weekends, which he spends at his father's house. Charlie is a sweet but impressionable kid who looks up to his older brother and tends to follow in his ill-advised footsteps to be just like him, whether that involves partaking in underage alcohol consumption or smoking anything he can afford to obtain. Though he's two years younger than Brett, Charlie prefers to hang around with him and his friends, especially Marcus, with whom he shares a close bond, as opposed to people his own age. He attempts to share in Marcus' affection for old-timey customs, but mainly gives in to feigned laughter in order to appease him. Charlie always feels a bit overshadowed by Brett, and this leads the two of them to squabble constantly with one another over trivial matters - which Marcus secretly abhors listening to.
TBA as Jay - A close friend of Marcus and Brett's from high school, Jay is a strait-laced, charmingly affectionate young man with an overtly vibrant personality that makes him a welcome presence among others. Complete with an occasionally overemphasized smile that signals an eagerness to spend time with his friends, Jay stands out from his group with his signature greeting hugs and a tendency to make polite conversation with Marcus' parents -- something that both annoys and embarrasses Marcus. He is also a habitual vape-smoker and is almost always seen either with an electronic cigarette in hand or a cloud of fruit-scented smoke emanating from his mouth - all while under the impression that vaping is a healthier alternative to actual smoking. Jay's mother was afflicted with breast cancer and has been in a state of remission, although he doesn't like to think or talk about her to anyone and becomes fraught if the subject is mentioned.
TBA as Joey - A singularly darker acquaintance of Marcus, Brett and Jay's who lives in a standard one-bedroom apartment with his single father and demonstrates little interest in attending college or obtaining a job. Joey is a misanthropic, unprincipled, antisocial type of kid who carries around a homemade knife while proudly displaying an irreverent disregard for both the law and ethical policies -- such as cutting the tail off of a field mouse in front of his friends and making an obscene racist crack at Jay's girlfriend for expressing an unreciprocated anxiety. He devotes most of his time to aimlessly hanging around his apartment playing video games, either by himself or in the company of others, and appears to use them as a shield against the complexities of reality.
Jessica Sula as Charlotte - Jay's girlfriend and a good friend of Brynn's. Having had to grow up without her older brother, who was shot to death by policemen after he attempted to rob a convenience store, Charlotte has developed into a vulnerable but sensitive and caring young woman who uses her traumatic experience to make a connection with Marcus and comfort him over the loss of his father. Aside from her kind nature and purity -- as she does not plan to have sex with Jay until she's certain in her readiness -- Charlotte is still capable of having a good time and isn't above smoking weed on a social occasion.
TBA as Andrews - A gravedigger at the nearby cemetery. Andrews is a stern, hard-working, efficient and commanding custodian with a hint of impatience. Being that he works the night shift, Andrews detests people trespassing on the burial ground late at night while he's digging graves and is able to assert authority when others fail to heed his warnings to leave. His voice is calm and reasonable - yet also authoritative.
Trey Burvant as Officer Wilson - A police officer investigating the brutal unsolved murder of Andrews the gravedigger. Having received an anonymous tip regarding a suspicious individual living in a one-bedroom apartment and carrying a knife, Wilson finds himself drawn to the apartment building where Marcus' friend, Joey, lives, and while there discovers a damning piece of evidence in his possession. A tough-looking man of commanding presence, Wilson is reasonably affable and understanding, showing no interest in busting young kids for drinking or smoking within their sanctuaries, but will readily engage in a merciless, handcuffs-concluding fight if provoked.
Marcus, Lynda and Paul converse during dinner
- (Marcus, Lynda and Paul are sitting at the dinner table, eating rotisserie chicken. Lynda and Paul simultaneously scroll through their cellphones: Lynda is captivated by conspiracy theory stories and Paul is aimlessly looking over meaningless human interest articles)
- Marcus: This is so delicious, Mom.
- (Lynda looks up at Marcus from her phone and smiles)
- Lynda: Thank you, sweetie. Delicious as always, right?
- (Marcus shrugs his shoulders and jokingly exclaims:)
- Marcus: Mmm.
- (Lynda expels a humorous gasp, fully aware of Marcus' false uncertainty)
- Lynda: Marcus! What do you mean, "mmm"? What am I supposed to do with that?
- Marcus: Mmm, it might've been better last Thursday.
- Lynda: Better last Thursday? Well just for that, I'm never making the rotisserie chicken again! Ever!
- (Marcus chuckles as he scarfs down the chicken)
- Lynda: So say goodbye 'cause this is it!
- Paul: No! Who's going to cook such a brilliant, intricate dish like this every week if not you?
- (Lynda gives Paul a silly "you know I didn't cook this" face)
- Lynda: There is a science in heating up the chicken, I'll have you know.
- Paul: How would you know? You didn't even pass science.
- Lynda: Oh my God!
- Marcus: What's wrong?
- Lynda: Nothing. Except the fucking government is destroying the ozone layer and no one seems to care!
- Paul: Oh, for fuck's sake! Not this again!
- Marcus: Mom, enough with the chemtrails! Please!
- Lynda: Read what my friends are writing about them - the illnesses that these things are associated with: aneurysms, strokes, heart attacks, fucking cancer! We're being sprayed with cancer every day like it's no big thing and people look at me like I'm the crazy one.
- Marcus: Mom, I seriously doubt the government is giving us cancer.
- Lynda: Why? Because that would be "wrong"? The government doesn't give a shit about us.
- (Paul rolls his eyes)
- Lynda: And those aren't the only things they cause. Small, everyday things that people think nothing about: muscle pain or headaches and fatigue-
- Paul: Oh, I guess the chemtrails are already affecting me then.
- (Lynda pins a hard glare on Paul)
- Lynda: Paul, don't be a hypocrite. You see them in the sky every day.
- Paul: Lynda, I'm not denying that I see them. I'm just saying there's no real proof that confirms they're toxic chemicals.
- Lynda: No? Then what are they? Don't we have a right to know what's being sprayed above our heads?
- Paul: Honey, come on. Can't we just eat our delicious dinner in peace? You're choosing to get yourself wrapped up in all this provocative bullshit that for all we know could be just a hoax.
- (Marcus gives a snort of irony)
- Marcus: And what stories are you reading, Dad?
- Paul: It's a very stupid story about a man who willfully climbed inside a lion cage and is suing the zoo for thirty-five thousand dollars 'cause, for some strange reason, the lion ripped his arm right off his shoulder. Crazy fucker should be thrown in jail, not even get a penny for his injury.
- Marcus: Right. And who exactly are those stories made for?
- Lynda: Well, my stories are not stupid. And I'm not the only one who thinks that something really bad is going to happen.
- Paul: I think you need more things to fill out your day, baby.
- (Lynda puts her phone down and massages her temples in frustration)
- Paul: (easing up) Alright, lets say what you're saying does turn out to be true: For what purpose?
- (Lynda throws her hands in the air)
- Lynda: I don't know. Weather modification, maybe population control. There are too many people on the planet, maybe this is they're way of... clearing the field a little bit. All I know for sure is I was sitting outback earlier and I must have seen at least ten disgusting, fat trails coming out of those jets, just lingering in the sky. Made me nauseous.
- Marcus: What if it's just condensation, Mom, and you're confusing vapor for chemicals?
- Lynda: (unamused) You're funny.
- (Marcus turns to his dad and makes a gesture of "oh well, I tried")
- Lynda: Contrails dissipate in no time; these lines remain in the sky for hours.
- (Marcus calmly resumes eating his food, refraining from sending Lynda into a frenzy)
- Marcus: So Dad, how was your day?
- Paul: (comically grateful) Ah, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak. I was actually really excited to tell you guys I managed to sell seven policies of life insurance today.
- Lynda: Honey, that's great! Congratulations!
- Paul: Yeah, this one woman came to me and was telling me her husband had been diagnosed with a rare and possibly fatal liver disease about a year ago.
- Lynda: Jesus Christ!
- Paul: Yeah, it was really horrible to listen to. Lots of tissues were needed - some for myself.
- (Marcus lets out a light chuckle)
- Paul: Not joking. And this other couple, their child convinced them to take out life insurance in case something bad happened to one of them. It's kind of amazing: Everyone with an ounce of brain knows it's important to be prepared for these awful things, and yet so few people actually take the time to sit down and talk about what they can do to keep their loved ones protected. It's not that they don't believe in buying life insurance and having lots of money saved up, it's just that they don't believe in paying for it.
- Marcus: How much would you and Mom get if I croaked?
- Lynda: Marcus! Don't even ask that!
- Marcus: So I'm guessing you know the answer.
- Lynda: Sweetie, Daddy and I love you for your existence, not for all the cash you would leave behind. It would mean nothing to us without you. (to Paul) Right, baby?
- Paul: Uh... Well, it's great to know your mom loves you that much.
- (Lynda scoffs and waves her hand dismissively at Paul)
- (Marcus smiles and nods his head in understanding)
- Paul: (to Marcus) Hey.
- (Marcus turns to Paul, who gives him a silent kiss)
- Lynda: So other than life insurance extravaganza, how did the rest of your day go?
- Paul: Pretty good. I met with some of my older clients. Remember Nancy Ostrowski?
- Lynda: Nancy Ostrowski? That little- little short woman with the buzz cut?
- Marcus: Who?
- Paul: Longtime client of mine. She always looked kinda butch, big fat stomach. She came in today with her wife.
- Lynda: (surprised) Her what?
- Paul: I know, she-
- Marcus: Since when?
- Paul: Came out last September. Anyway, I offered them financial planning services since they're all coming close to retirement. It was kind of a bittersweet day. I don't know. Felt different.
- Lynda: Well, Marcus, I guess that leaves you.
- Marcus: (confused) What?
- Paul: Yeah, big man. What did you accomplish today?
- Marcus: Oh. I actually, um, started working on my new writing project.
- Lynda: Oh, that's awesome. What's it about?
- Marcus: Uh... It's a coming-of-age story about a boy who doesn't belong.
- Paul: (facetious) Sounds very original.
- Lynda: (sincere) It sounds good.
- Marcus: I don't have anything specific yet, like the characters or plot points. I just started writing it so it's really just an outline for now.
- Lynda: Well, I'm sure whatever you come up with to fill it out will be amazing.
- Marcus: Thank you.
- Paul: Are you writing it on that movies page?
- Marcus: Yeah, it's a fandom community - basically a forum for all writers.
- Paul: Ah, so, how much does this "community" pay you monthly?
- Lynda: (defensive) Paul.
- Paul: I'm just saying what you do is impressive, but it isn't getting you paid. It's no different than a hobby.
- Marcus: So what? It's what I'm good at.
- Paul: I know, but-
- Marcus: And I love doing it!
- Lynda: That's exactly right, honey. Don't listen to him.
- Paul: Marcus, I love you more than anything in the world - except maybe pizza. (Snickers at his own witticism) But you need to find something that's going to guarantee you a good future. Sitting in your room all day and writing these stories may be fun for now, but it's not going to help you function in the real world, buddy.
- (Marcus takes in his father's hard-hitting remarks silently as a pained expression comes over his face)
- Lynda: Marcus, coming from someone who has lived in the real world, believe me when I say, do what makes you happy.
- Paul: Lyn, what the boy needs to do is get a job - a real job where he can meet other people and earn a decent income.
- Lynda: (to Marcus) Money isn't everything, sweetheart. Anyone can get a job at the nearby food market and make $11.82 an hour and just be another cog in the machine. But having a talent like yours, devoting your time and energy into doing what makes you feel like an individual, that is something no one can put a price on.
- Paul: Yeah. Be sure to tell him that when he's looking for spare change off the side of the road.
- (Lynda glares at Paul)
- Lynda: Just keep writing your stories, Marc. You at least have one of our blessings.
- (Marcus flashes an appreciative smile at Lynda)
- (The doorbell suddenly rings)
- (Paul and Lynda stare at each other suspiciously)
- Paul: What is it, like 8:30?
- Marcus: I got it.
- (Marcus excuses himself from the table and saunters into the entrance hall)
Lynda experiences disquiet over Marcus' friends in the house
- (Jay is approaching the entrance to the basement when he turns to face Paul and Lynda sitting at the dining table, wearing an effervescent smile on his face. Marcus stands behind him, looking uncomfortable)
- Jay: Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Ascher.
- (Paul smiles and waves to Jay)
- Paul: Hey, Jay.
- Lynda: Hi, Jay. How are you?
- Jay: I'm doing well. How about yourselves?
- Lynda: We're good; safe and healthy as always. How about your mom? How's she doing?
- (Jay's smile suddenly weakens)
- Jay: Uh, you know, she's hanging in there. I just gotta say, you look beautiful as ever Mrs. A. Did you do something different with your hair?
- (Lynda gives a half-suppressed laugh)
- Paul: Hey, take it easy, pal. We're still married.
- (Marcus ushers Jay down the stairs into the basement)
- Marcus: (embarrassed) Okay, we're going downstairs now.
- Jay: What? Your mom's beautiful.
- Lynda: (to Marcus) Wait, sweetie, your chicken.
- Marcus: It's fine, Mom. I'm full. We're just gonna watch TV or something.
- (Marcus descends the stairs behind Jay, Brett and Charlie)
- (A look of discomfort suddenly washes over Lynda's face)
- Lynda: (to Paul) I've got a weird feeling about this.
- Paul: What do you mean?
- Lynda: You don't think they're... drinking down there, right? Or smoking?
- Paul: Nah, in the basement? They're probably just gonna... shoot the breeze, chill out, watch porn.
- Lynda: That would be the least of my worries. And did you notice Brett barely even says hello to us anymore?
- Paul: So what? They're teenagers - almost twenty. Treating us elders with politeness and courtesy tends to escape them at that age.
- Lynda: He used to be so talented.
- Paul: Who?
- Lynda: Brett. He was such an incredible artist. Remember that huge picture he drew for Marcus' thirteenth birthday?
- Paul: Of course - that cartoon with all the adorable animals getting their heads ripped off and innards spewed out.
- Lynda: It's sad. It's like... I don't know, he just lost all motivation. And you saw that bag he came in with. You think that's just water bottles and skittles in there?
- Paul: Honey, calm down. First off, those boys are not dumb enough to do that kind of stuff in someone else's house. And secondly, even if they were, you know Marcus wouldn't join in.
- Lynda: How do you know that? Would he tell us if he did?
- Paul: Because he's too smart. We've had the talk with him, we've shown him the videos, especially that one in particular with that guy going face first through the windshield - kept him awake at night for three days. You remember.
- Lynda: No kidding, we had to cradle him until he fell asleep.
- Paul: Believe me when I say, our son would never put his own body through that kind of torture. He would open up a book and study for a calculus exam first.
- Lynda: I don't like him being around it, though. What if those idiots pressure him into giving it a try?
- Paul: I'm confident that he's far above giving in to peer pressure in 2019.
- Lynda: (slightly rising from her chair) Maybe I should go down and check on them.
- Paul: (grabs Lynda's hand and lowers her back down) No, no, no!
- Lynda: Just to be sure.
- Paul: If you do that, you're just gonna embarrass the hell out of him.
- Lynda: Yeah, but I-
- Paul: And then he's gonna resent you and make sure the both of us end up in a retirement home under the care of some army nurse who's gonna wash our mouths out with soap and treat us to shock therapy. And that's if he decides to go easy on us.
- (Lynda scoffs and then considers Paul's dramatic yet oddly plausible warning)
- Paul: You just gotta let teenagers be teenagers, you know. Doesn't last forever.
- Lynda: (softly, feeling defeated) Okay, you're probably right.
- (Lynda silently resumes eating her dinner, appearing discontent)
Marcus and his friends hang out in the basement
- (Brett cracks a can of beer and slurps the liquid bubbling through the aperture)
- Brett: (to Charlie) Cheers, bitch.
- (Brett clinks his can against Charlie's and they both swig their beer)
- Brett: Jay, you want in?
- (Jay takes a long drag on his electronic cigarette)
- Jay: Nah, thanks. I'm good.
- Brett: Marc-e-Marc, (reaches into his bag and pulls out an unopened can of beer) ready to commit your very first transgression?
- (Marcus gives a dismissive wave)
- Marcus: No, I'm good too.
- Brett: Damn! I am gonna get you to try alcohol at least once in your lifetime! That is a guarantee!
- Charlie: (to Marcus) How about your 21st birthday?
- Marcus: (shaking his head) Probably not.
- Charlie: But why? It's so good!
- Marcus: No, it really isn't. Have you tasted it? It tastes like throat cancer to me.
- Brett: I mean, that's just because you haven't tried it. Like, you've taken sips and gotten the initial flavor, but once you start drinking it and just let it sink in, it is the greatest sensation! You feel like you're fucking floating!
- Jay: No, you don't. You just throw up a lot and feel like shit in the morning.
- (Charlie puts his finger up to his lip at Jay)
- Brett: Jay, come on. I'm trying to influence him a little here.
- Marcus: I don't know. I guess I also don't like the thought of... like, losing control and not knowing what I'm doing or how I'm acting.
- Charlie: Losing control is the best part, though. It's almost like you get to be a new person that you never thought you could be while you were sober.
- Marcus: Yeah, that sounds cool, but with my luck, I'll wake up the next morning and you guys'll be showing me a video where I'm... spitting on a police officer and streaking down the block.
- Jay: (smiles deviously) Wait, hold up! Now we gotta get you drunk!
- (Marcus chuckles)
- Brett: Bro, if you did that, I think I would definitely film it and put it on my channel.
- Marcus: Oh, I'm sure. You would probably make it up to 15,000 subscribers over night.
- Jay: Nah, they'd most likely be unimpressed with the size.
- (Marcus glares at Jay)
- Charlie: In all honesty, though, I think you should experience how it feels at least once.
- Brett: Yeah, who knows - maybe it'll help you work up the nerve to ask that girl out from your English class.
- Marcus: Why does it matter so much whether I try it or not?
- Brett: Because we love you, Marcus. We just want you to feel included when we're having fun.
- Charlie: Exactly.
- Marcus: I'm having a great time with you all without destroying my liver. Call me old-fashioned.
- Charlie: You're just being- I mean, don't take this the wrong way 'cause you're probably my favorite out of all my brother's friends-
- Jay: (momentarily offended) Thanks.
- Charlie: -But you are a little close-minded about trying new things. And I will love you either way-
- Brett: (to Marcus) Second that.
- Charlie: -However, I would personally love to see you get drunk and lose yourself.
- Jay: With the rest of us, though.
- Charlie: Well, yeah - none of that single drinking bullshit!
- (Having lost his assertiveness, Marcus shrugs his shoulders and stares down at the floor in shame)
- Brett: (to Marcus) Shit, dude, we're just messing around. You obviously don't have to drink if you don't want to.
- Charlie: Brett, what the fuck!
- Jay: Way to backtrack, man.
- Brett: No, I'm just- I'm just saying you've got the guts to say no to things that you don't wanna do and I think that's awesome! For real. And you're able to enjoy yourself and have a good time without needing any assistance from liquor and all this other toxic shit. I mean, it's delicious and I love it, don't get me wrong. I'd be happy to split a Budweiser with you anytime you want, but still, you don't need it to feel good and I fucking downright respect that. The point I'm at now, honestly- I mean this is gonna sound pathetic - I fucking hate myself for even saying it, but... I feel like I need it just to feel normal. (Takes a long chug of his beer) All of it: the booze, the smokes. Fuck.
- Jay: Maybe you should check in to one of those AA resorts. They'll give you a clean bed and you get to swim for free all day in a giant-ass swimming pool.
- Brett: (Scoffs) You gonna explain that one to my dad? I can practically feel a warm puddle streaming down my leg every time he catches me with a root beer bottle.
- (Marcus looks up at Brett with an appreciative & relieved smile - while Brett swallows another gulp of beer and wipes his mouth on his sleeve)
- (Jay takes a drag on his e-cigarette and exhales a cloud of vapor)
- Marcus: (turns to face Jay as the growing smoke surrounds him) What is that?
- Jay: (coughs out his last breath of vapor) What? This thing? You've never seen one before?
- (Marcus shakes his head)
- Jay: It's basically like a- like a battery-operated vaporizer. It simulates the effects of smoking but without burning tobacco. Also helps you to quit cigarettes, so...
- (Jay takes another drag off the e-cigarette)
- Marcus: So, does it have, like, nicotine in it?
- Jay: Depends. They have nicotine solutions that get heated to make the vapor.
- Charlie: And also them shit's have cartridges filled with a liquid that might contain nicotine, but it could also have, like, THC or a cotton candy flavor. It's really good. It's like candy inside of a pen.
- Marcus: That does smell good, actually. What flavor is it?
- Jay: Blueberry.
- (Marcus takes a beat to consider)
- Marcus: Could I try it?
- Jay: (impressed) Dead ass?
- (Marcus nods his head in acceptance)
- Jay: (Handing Marcus the vape pen) Be my guest. Just try not to use it all. I gotta get more juice.
- (Marcus cautiously moves the electronic cigarette toward his lips and inhales)
- Brett: Hold it in. Just let it go down your throat. All the way.
- Jay: Yeah, he's gonna break.
- (Marcus exhales and begins choking violently on a puff of vapor)
- (Brett, Charlie and Jay chuckle and shake their heads gleefully at Marcus' failed attempt)
- (Marcus hands the vape pen back to Jay and coughs up the vapor intermittently while speaking:)
- Marcus: Here... take it... fuck. That didn't feel right.
- Brett: You're good. Probably just took too big a drag for your first time.
- Charlie: For real. You gotta remember to take a slow draw till the vapor fills your mouth. Then hold it in for like a second or two, and then open your mouth and breathe in the vapor to your lungs.
- Brett: But make sure you don't swallow, whatever you do.
- Charlie: Then, once it's in your lungs, you can just calmly blow it out.
- Jay: Well, that might be a struggle for him. We all know Marcus loves to swallow.
- Marcus: (still coughing) Fuck you.
- Jay: Hey.
- (Jay reaches over and pats Marcus consolingly on the shoulder)
- Marcus: (overcoming his cough) That did not taste as good as it smelled.
- (Jay takes a puff of his e-cigarette)
- Jay: I gotta dip in about 20 minutes.
- Brett: Aw, where you going?
- Jay: Meeting up with Charlotte. I promised I would help her study for her history test.
- Charlie: Yeah, okay - "help her study".
- Brett: Jay, haven't the two of you been going out for like 8 months now?
- Jay: 9 months next Friday.
- Brett: And that's all she's letting you do for her?
- Jay: Fuck off. She's worth every second of the wait, man. At least she didn't dump me at the start of senior year.
- Brett: Okay, first off, fuck you! Emily was a cunt; I did nothing except love that girl. I would've even converted to fucking Judaism for her, that's how much she meant to me. But apparently I wasn't "grown up" enough for her and her big future aspirations. I thought for sure we were at least gonna make it to prom together, you know? Rent a room, exchange V cards. She could've dumped me sometime after that. Little courtesy would've been cool.
- (Brett washes down his sorrow with a satisfying gulp of beer)
- Jay: Well, not to take a shit on your pity party or nothing, but I think tonight might actually be the night for us.
- Marcus: Wait, are you serious?
- (Jay takes a drag on his e-cigarette and nods his head)
- Marcus: How- How do you know? I mean, for certain?
- Jay: I don't for certain. But we've been together for a long time and she told me I've helped her get through a lot of family stuff she's been dealing with. We make each other laugh all the time, I made her this little compilation video for her birthday of the two of us hanging out with our favorite song playing in the background.
- Charlie: (snickering) No offense, but that one's a little gay bruh.
- Jay: Are you kidding me? It's a classic gesture!
- Marcus: What's the song?
- Jay: "Can't Feel My Face When I'm With You".
- Brett: Good for you, man. That's- That's awesome!
- Marcus: (elated, but with a hint of melancholy) Yeah, that's... really exciting.
- Jay: Thanks. And also she asked specifically if we could study in her bedroom-
- Charlie: That is where studying tends to take place.
- Jay: -while her parents are out for the evening.
- Brett: Ah, there we go.
- Marcus: Yep. That sounds... pretty certain.
- Jay: So, if that isn't code for something, then...
- Brett: Nah, that's most likely a telltale gateway to getting laid.
- Charlie: Brett, later tonight can you buy me a pack of menthol's?
- Brett: What? No!
- Charlie: Why? Come on!
- Brett: No, Charlie! I'm not spending the rest of my money on cigarettes for you. Get them yourself.
- Charlie: I can't. I'm all out. Besides, they all know I'm not 18 over there.
- Brett: Well, that's not my fucking problem.
- Charlie: Come on, dude. One pack is only like $6. I'll pay you back.
- Brett: W-why? Why do you need them so badly all of a sudden?
- Charlie: Because I have to go back to Dad's tomorrow and I really don't feel like spending the whole weekend there without any cigarettes. You at least get to stay here with everybody and smoke and drink as much as you want.
- Brett: Okay, well, soon enough you'll be 18 and then you can do the same.
- Charlie: Yeah, but that's not for another 6 months. I'm just asking for one pack for the weekend. Come on, please! I don't fucking ask you for anything.
- (Marcus watches Brett and Charlie argue, a subtle expression of tortured indifference washing over his face)
- Brett: Uh-huh, and you're not about to start now.
- Charlie: Such an asshole. I hate you!
- Brett: (in scornful imitation of Charlie's voice) Such an asshole. I hate you.
Lynda and Paul encounter a bedtime intrusion
- (Paul is in the bathroom brushing his teeth in front of a mirror. Lynda is sitting upright in bed with a laptop at her side, fearfully glancing through a text concerning chemtrails)
- Lynda: (quietly, to herself) Oh my God! (to Paul) Paul, you need to read this! Right now!
- Paul: (his mouth obstructed by toothpaste) Be in in a minute. What's the problem?
- Lynda: I'm looking at this really alarming column written by a U.S. Marine veteran, okay? So you know I'm not making this up. He writes, "There have been many independent tests done over the past five years and it does not look good. It has been confirmed that all around our country a cocktail of dangerous and extremely poisonous chemicals are being dispersed. This includes barium, cadmium, nickel, mold spores, yellow fungal mycotoxins, and the best - radioactive thorium." And that's not even the full fucking list.
- Paul: Sweetheart, why don't you stop reading that crap? It's just making you hysterical.
- Lynda: (Not listening) "The one chemical that is being sprayed the most is aluminum. [And] it can cause all sorts of health problems." (to herself) Are you kidding me?
- Paul: Okay, yeah, just do the exact opposite of what I suggested. That's cool too.
- Lynda: Read what this does to our bodies, Paul! It's a chemical that primarily attacks the central nervous system and can cause everything from disturbed sleep, nervousness, memory loss, headaches and emotional instability.
- Paul: Well, at least now you can't blame my snoring for keeping you awake at night.
- Lynda: Paul, knock it off! This is not a joke! We're talking about the future of the world, for God's sake! Not just us, but think about Marcus and his wife and children. They're not gonna have a future if this keeps going on.
- Paul: (quietly, to himself) Would like to see him actually meet a girl first.
- Lynda: You know, I hate to say it, but 15, 20 years from now, we may not even be here. All the shit they're spraying, we might actually wake up one morning and not remember our own names. Or they could spray a- a lethal virus on us and we'd be dead in a second. Wouldn't even know what hit us.
- (Paul spits out a small glob of toothpaste into the sink)
- Paul: Hey, hon?
- Lynda: What?
- Paul: Do me a favor: show me the university these geniuses graduated from. Or a certificate that validates all their illuminating knowledge of, uh, covert operations. That I would love to take a look at! (Resumes brushing his teeth) Lyn, I'm telling you, the people who write these little conspiracy stories about the end of the world and toxins in the air - they're nothing but sad & lonely misfits, okay? They're bored, got nothing better to do, like get a job, they probably live in a shack in their mother's backyard. I mean, you can't rely on what people like that type.
- (Lynda scoffs)
- Lynda: (to herself) Conspiracy, my ass! These people are awake!
- Paul: And you're only giving them exactly what they want. Their entire mission is to stir up a panic and frighten people into donating to a save-the-earth charity. Screw that! They know we live in a gullible society where people will do just about anything to feel safe. You know, you're like a fly heading straight for the spider's web.
- (Lynda reads out the following passage to herself, speaking in a whisper:)
- Lynda: "Contrails, those white ribbons jets leave behind in the sky, will exacerbate global warming in the next few decades... the impact of contrails on climate change is expected to triple by 2050." (commenting to herself) Bullshit, "contrails"! "Contrails warm the atmosphere... since they can linger in the sky as cirrus clouds that trap heat inside the Earth's atmosphere."
- (Paul spits out the final chunk of toothpaste into the sink and runs his toothbrush under the faucet. He then wipes his face with a towel suspended from the door and walks into the adjacent bedroom to find Lynda still nervously looking over the writings on her laptop)
- (Lynda looks up at Paul)
- Lynda: This is a nightmare! Global warming's about to get so much worse and it's all right here and nobody is doing anything-
- Paul: Alright, alright, that's enough doomsday for one night! Please!
- (Paul closes Lynda's laptop and forcibly snatches it from her lap)
- Lynda: Hey, what are you doing?
- Paul: Giving you a break before your heart gives out.
- (Paul perches the laptop atop a nearby bureau)
- Lynda: Paul, I was reading that! It was important!
- Paul: I know. And it'll be right there waiting for you to agonize over in the morning, okay? I promise.
- (Paul climbs into the bed and lies down beside Lynda)
- Paul: But until then, could we just please take a breath and try to get some sleep? Think we can safely assume the world isn't coming to an end before we get to wake up.
- Lynda: Yeah, and what makes you so sure it won't?
- Paul: I've got a big day tomorrow. Lots of appointments with disgruntled and uncertain and idiotic customers. I could never get off that easy.
- (Lynda struggles against letting out a surprised chuckle, and fails)
- Paul: Ah, you see? There you go! A smile! She still has a little bit of joy left in her, folks!
- (Paul envelops Lynda in his arms and strokes her hair)
- Paul: That's the beautiful face I want to see.
- Lynda: I'm trying to save the planet. I want our son to have a life for himself when we're gone, don't you?
- Paul: Yes, of course I want that. You know what else I want?
- Lynda: (flirtatious) What? What's that?
- (Paul kisses Lynda passionately on the lips)
- Paul: Those soft, warm lips. And you know what else I love?
- Lynda: Hmm, drawing a blank.
- (Paul begins to kiss Lynda on the front right side of her neck, causing her to burst into a fit of pleasurable giggles)
- Lynda: Oh, that's what you're going for. Keep going!
- (Paul descends to brush his lips deliberately against his wife's collarbone, necessitating her to close her eyes and give soft moans of gratification. Slowly he sneaks his hand beneath Lynda's bra and starts caressing her bare breast, when suddenly they hear a hard, mood-shattering knock against the outside of their bedroom door)
- (Paul hastily releases his hold on Lynda's chest and sits up)
- Paul: (frustrated) Shit!
- (Marcus enters the bedroom)
- Marcus: Hey.
- Lynda: Hi, sweetheart.
- Paul: Hey, buddy.
- Lynda: What's up? Is everything- everything okay?
- Marcus: Yeah. No, I'm fine. Just wanted to see you.
- Lynda: Aww, that's so sweet! (to Paul) He's checking in on Mommy and Daddy.
- Paul: What a generous soul.
- Marcus: (to Lynda) Well, also I heard you making these weird moaning noises through the wall. Sounded like you were in a lot of pain.
- Lynda: Oh, that was- No, that wasn't anything. I just had a... in my neck, like a-
- Paul: A cramp.
- Lynda: Yeah, a little cramp in my neck. Probably just slept on it wrong or something.
- Lynda: (compelled) Well, what are you waiting for, handsome? Get in here!
- (Marcus blissfully clambers in the bed and lies down between Paul and Lynda, both of whom exchange regretful expressions. While Marcus is getting himself comfortably situated, Lynda secretly mouths a silent apology to an embittered Paul)
- Marcus: We really need to get a king-sized bed. Somehow I always feel a little bit cramped in here.
- Paul: Probably because it's a two-person bed. But hey, you know what? I'll bet if you were to go next door right now and give your own bed a chance, I guarantee you would find it's got more than enough room for you. That would even help me sleep so much better knowing my son is as comfortable and has as much space in his sleep as he could possibly hope.
- Marcus: Ha! Nice try.
- (Marcus leans forward to give his father a kiss on his forehead and then rests his head peacefully on the free portion of Paul's pillow, caressing both of his parents' hands affectionately)
- Marcus: (sighs) I'm so glad tomorrow's Friday already!
- Lynda: Mmm, I know what you mean. Feels like the week just flew by, doesn't it?
- Paul: (to Marcus) You know, I hate to break it to you, buddy. I'm not trying to bum you out with a reality check or anything, but you can't sleep with me and Mom forever. And I know you don't like hearing this, but I don't feel like spending close to $300 on a new bed when this one finally caves in, you know?
- Lynda: Oh, leave him alone. He doesn't sleep in our bed every night.
- Paul: Yeah, I know, but-
- Lynda: And besides, I take it as an honor having a son who still enjoys spending quality time with his parents. Most teenagers wouldn't be caught dead giving their parents a hug as soon as they stepped outside their home.
- Paul: It's not that I don't value him spending time with us. I just want the boy to develop some independence, that's all. Before he has his wife and kids come in here asking us to scoot over.
- Marcus: (scoffs) Don't worry about that. When I have my own family, we're gonna move as far away from here as possible and you'll never see me or hear from me ever again!
- Paul: (gasps) Do you need some help packing?
- Lynda: Oh...
- (Lynda reaches over and playfully slaps Paul across the chest)
- (Paul laughs and tries to wrap an arm around Marcus' shoulder, but Marcus wriggles out of his grip in disgust)
- Paul: Hey, hey, get the heck over here!
- (Paul enfolds Marcus in his arms and kisses the top of his head affectionately)
- Paul: Oh, I love this kid! He knows that.
- (Paul plants another kiss on Marcus' head)
- Marcus: You know, on second thought, maybe I'll just move us all into this house and kick you to the fucking curb.
- (Paul turns his head instantly toward Lynda, his mouth forming a terrified frown)
- Paul: I think he means that.
- Lynda: Damn right he means it. Better watch what you say to him.
- (Paul gives a small whine and shakes his head jokingly in desperation)
- Lynda: I know he would never do that to his mother, though, who cooks him nice warm dinners every night and buys him clothes and takes good care of him every minute of each day.
- Marcus: No, of course not. You could be our live-in housekeeper.
- Lynda: (playfully flabbergasted) Marcus!
- Marcus: You can make dinner for us every night, get the kids everything they need for school, keep the house nice and sparkly-
- Lynda: Oh, we will see about that, buddy. Just make sure you find a nice girl who can do all the things your mom does; that would be an incredible achievement!
- Paul: Now, if she starts ranting on about chemtrails, promise me you'll turn the other way and run as fast as you can.
- (Lynda laughs mockingly)
- Marcus: I can't stand being around them sometimes.
- Lynda: What do you mean?
- Marcus: Them! Down there. They make me sick.
- Lynda: Oh. Why? What were they doing?
- Marcus: Nothing, they just- All they talk about is drinking and getting high and how fun it is to go to people's houses and drink beer and smoke weed. It's like I don't even know who they are anymore.
- Paul: They weren't smoking or drinking in this house, were they?
- Marcus: No... I mean other people's houses, like, for parties and shit. On weekends.
- Lynda: God, what does their mom think when they come home reeking of liquor and have those bulging, bloodshot eyes, you know? Or when she does the laundry: can't she smell all that disgusting nicotine all over their clothes?
- Paul: Do you think she even cares?
- Marcus: I don't know. Honestly, I'm pretty sure she's happy just to get them out of the house.
- Lynda: It's sad. His brother's gonna end up going down the exact same path.
- Marcus: Yep. That's what they live for nowadays.
- Paul: Maybe you should make some new friends. Ones who actually cut their hair every now and again, and have more on their minds than finding the next best way to get trashed.
- Marcus: Nah, I couldn't just abandon them. They're all I have.
- Paul: I'm not suggesting that you cut them off completely. They can still be apart of your life. Just try to meet some new people who have similar interests as you and who you can have a good time with.
- Lynda: Ooh, maybe we should sign him up for the JCC! You remember the Wagners from down the shore? They sent their two kids there when they were in high school and they ended up coming home with a bucket-load of friends. Said it was the best time of their lives.
- Marcus: I don't think that would be good for me. I don't fit in well with large groups of people.
- Lynda: Why not? It doesn't have to be a large group. I'm sure they have smaller sections to choose from. Who knows - maybe you'll meet somebody there who also loves to write and hates school as much as you do.
- Paul: Do you think they have a program that maybe doesn't suck $45 out of my pocket at the end of each month?
- Lynda: Oh, stop it. Everything comes with a dollar sign attached for you.
- Paul: Well, that's because one of us has to actually hand over the dollars.
- Lynda: (to Marcus) Sweetheart, you know how much I love your father, but right now he's being a stingy asshole, okay. So just tune him out. If you wanna go and give it a try, we will cheerfully send you there in a heartbeat.
- Marcus: I- No. I mean, that's nice of you to offer, but that's not my thing. Three, four people that I know and feel comfortable with, maybe. But when you put me in a room with, like, a bunch of strangers my age or older or younger, I just- I- I can't do it.
- Lynda: Why? I don't understand what you-
- Marcus: My leg starts shaking, I feel like everyone can smell me and be able to tell right away that I'm different and not into the same things most kids my age are into. It's just embarrassing. It feels like I'm drowning in humiliation. It's- I'm not interested.
- Lynda: Well, then baby, you have to show people what you're into. Talk to them. Tell them about the stories you love to write. You'd be surprised - someone could easily step up and turn out to have the exact same interests you have. Right, Paul? Am I right?
- (Paul hesitates, shrugging his shoulders)
- Paul: Yeah. Yes. It's certainly important to get out and mingle with people, but I understand that it's- it can be intimidating at first when you venture beyond your comfort zone and suddenly you find yourself surrounded by all these foreign faces you don't normally see day-to-day.
- Lynda: Everyone gets scared and shy sometimes; it means you're human.
- Paul: Before I got involved with the insurance business, I wasn't used to going up to people and starting a conversation on the spot. It took years of practice; doing it over and over again. And now it's like second nature.
- Marcus: I don't just get shy, Dad; when I'm around a group of people that I'm not familiar with, I swear I- I lose the ability to think straight or even talk properly. Someone asks me a question, I freeze up; I don't know whether to lie or- Just face it: I'm a social retard.
- (Paul gives a gleeful chuckle)
- Lynda: You are not. Don't say that. You've got so much going for you: you're talented, you're at least 10 times more mature than most boys your age, you're handsome-
- Paul: Well, come on now, honey; lets not push it.
- (Marcus rolls his eyes in playful annoyance)
Lynda joins Paul for a chat at the kitchen table
- (Lynda, enveloped in a dressing gown, wanders lazily into the kitchen with noticeably untidy hair and partially open eyes)
- Lynda: (groans) Feel like I got ran over by a bus and then... crushed against a brick wall.
- Paul: (sitting at the breakfast table, eating an avocado with a spoon and reading a story on his cellphone) Morning to you too. (Takes a sip from his hot cup of coffee) Didn't get a good night's sleep, I would imagine? Don't blame me, I'm not the one who welcomed him in with open arms.
- Lynda: Well, the sleep was fine; it's the waking up that's a nightmare.
- Paul: Go get a nice hot cup of java. I just brewed some.
- Lynda: Oh, thank God! That's exactly what I need!
- (Lynda walks toward the coffeemaker and pours a little coffee into a cup, then begins to rub the back of her neck in discomfort)
- Paul: You alright, baby?
- Lynda: Yeah, I'm fine. Just a bit stiff from lying shoulder to shoulder with Marcus in that fricken bed.
- Paul: Mm, yeah, I know what you mean; I can just about move my left arm. He was squeezing it all night in his sleep. Think he might've actually left a bruise.
- Lynda: Ah, I thought I saw you drinking coffee with your opposite hand.
- (Paul raises his cup of coffee)
- Paul: Guess that's the price we gotta pay for having a son who still loves his old mom and dad, huh?
- Lynda: Hey! (Moves to the table with her coffee mug and takes a chair close to her husband) Speak for yourself, old man.
- (Lynda smiles sardonically at Paul and takes a mouthful of coffee)
- Paul: Although I have to admit, for a 19-year-old knucklehead, he's got one hell of a grip.
- Lynda: Tell me about it - I'm as stiff as an ironing board.
- Paul: Yeah, what else is new?
- Lynda: Oh, shut up! You're not that funny.
- (Paul chuckles)
- Paul: Then how do I consistently manage to crack myself up?
- Lynda: What's that you're reading?
- Paul: Meh. It's another one of those ridiculous stories that keep popping up on my phone. No way to tell which ones are true and which ones are just bullshit to make people angry. This one's about a priest who apparently denied a transgender woman entrance to his church. Referred to her lifestyle choice as "an abomination against God-
- Lynda: (cringes with disgust) You have got to be kidding me!
- Paul: -"and His immaculate construction of the individual human physique!" Direct quote.
- Lynda: Ugh! You know what? That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard! People have a right to do whatever makes them happy! I mean, it's their body, not His! If they wanna put makeup on it and throw on a dress, who gives a shit? You know, these are the exact types of people who would stone a child to death for liking someone of the same sex! I mean, it's ridiculous!
- Paul: Wow! I think you might actually be the target audience for these things, hon. That was pretty hot!
- Lynda: (cooling off) Yeah, well, I'm just saying it makes me sick! (bitterly takes another sup of coffee) The lack of tolerance and empathy going on in the world. Isn't it bad enough what they're doing to us up there?
- (Paul digs his spoon into his avocado and scarfs down a nugget of smooth oily edible flesh)
- Paul: I'll tell you one thing: the LGBT community's losing their shit! They're petitioning the Catholic Church for the priest to be fired without severance. Already collected 485 signatures so far.
- (Paul takes a sip of coffee)
- Lynda: I didn't wanna say anything when he was with us, but I could, uh- I smelled nicotine on his clothes. I mean, I know he promised us that he wasn't, but-
- Paul: Yeah. Kinda glad you brought it up actually. I was beginning to think I was the only one.
- Lynda: You don't think that he was-
- Paul: No. No, I'm sure his friends probably were and his clothes must have just, you know, absorbed some of it. (snickers) Always happens to the one person in the group who isn't smoking, right?
- Lynda: Yeah, that doesn't make me feel any better. I don't want him being exposed to that at all. Paul, I'm really starting to worry about the two of them together! I think Brett might be a bad influence on our son! Who knows what the hell they're doing when we're not around to see it?
- Paul: Honey, come on! We talked about this the other day, did we not?
- Lynda: It breaks my heart. What he's doing to himself. God, he used to be such a sweet kid. He's still nice, don't get me wrong. It's just- He was so good with his art. Insanely talented. Like an art prodigy. I don't even know what would do justice to how great he was. Now he's just throwing it all away on booze and cigarettes.
- Paul: Yeah, you're right. I mean it. I completely agree a hundred percent. It's a sad, pitiful situation and I'm sorry that his parents aren't doing anything to help him. But I also have faith in Marcus and I trust him to make the right decisions and I feel confident that he's mature enough to decide for himself who he wants to involve in his life. Don't you?
- (Lynda throws her hands up)
- Lynda: (uncertain) Yeah, of course I trust him. More than my parents trusted me when I was his age. I just don't wanna see him make the same mistakes, that's all.
- (Paul presses the power button and stuffs his cellphone into his trouser pocket)
- Paul: Well, if there's one thing I know for sure about our boy: it's (glances at his wristwatch) about a quarter past seven on a Friday, so he doesn't have to get his butt outta bed on account of school. Therefore he shouldn't be waking up for at least another... eh, seven/eight hours.
- (Lynda chuckles in agreement)
- (Paul smiles seductively at Lynda)
- Paul: What do you say?
- Lynda: Hmm, very enticing idea. But I'm not having sex with our son in the house.
- Paul: Gosh, you know, I wasn't planning on having sex with our son anywhere, let alone in the house. But...
- Lynda: (laughing incredulously) My God, you are- you're vile! You hear me? You are! You have a twisted mind!
- Paul: Yeah.
- (Paul leans forward toward Lynda slowly and brushes a wisp of hair away from her face, caressing his wife's cheek)
- Paul: (softly) Come on. I promise I'll be quiet. If Marcus hears anything, it'll just sound like... a couple of mice fighting over a wedge of cheese.
- Lynda: Oh, is that right? Hmm.
- (Lynda kisses Paul passionately and delicately pushes him away)
- Lynda: Okay, okay. Tell you what, I'm gonna make you an offer - one you can't refuse: tonight, when you come home from work, we finish up dinner, clean up a little bit, and then... (fixes her husband with a flirtatious smile)
- Paul: You're- Are you serious?
- Lynda: On one condition: we lock the doors. Both of them: bedroom and bathroom. I am not taking any chances this time!
- Paul: Not even just a quickie right now to get me through the day?
- (Lynda flashes a playful furrowed-brow scowl at Paul)
- (Paul leans back in his chair and lets out a long sigh of vexation)
- Paul: Fine. Whatever you say. I'll wait until tonight.
- Lynda: Thank you. Such a gentleman you are.
- Paul: Just keep in mind you're sending me to work with blue balls here.
- Lynda: Okay, that's disgusting. I don't need to hear-
- Paul: And it hurts. It's a fresh, painful pair-
- Lynda: -about your bruised balls. It's not even a real thing.
- Paul: -It's very uncomfortable. I can feel them already swelling up.
- Lynda: Alright, if you don't stop right now, I'm taking back my offer completely!
- Paul: So if I have any difficulty sitting at my desk or communicating intelligibly with my clients, that's- I'm putting that all on you. I hope you understand that.
- Lynda: Uh-huh. Go to work.
- Paul: How about one more kiss?
- Lynda: No.
- Paul: No? You're not gonna give me a kiss? Not even before I leave to make more money for you?
- (Lynda shakes her head in refusal with an endearing little smirk, motivating Paul to lean forward and kiss her on the lips. As he begins to pull away, Lynda instantaneously wraps both hands around his neck:)
- Lynda: (aggressive) Uh-uh.
- (Lynda forcefully draws Paul toward her and gives him a prolonged kiss. Afterward, she lovingly straightens his tie:)
- Lynda: Now you go have a wonderful day at work. And I will see you tonight.
Lynda interrupts Marcus' writing
- (Marcus is sitting at his writing desk gazing at the computer screen intently. He types out the introductory paragraph to his coming-of-age narrative when Lynda intrudes into his bedroom bearing a steaming mug of coffee, disrupting Marcus' focus)
- Lynda: Hey, sweetie. Good morning.
- Marcus: Hey.
- Lynda: Did you just get up?
- Marcus: Mm-hmm. About five minutes ago, I guess.
- Lynda: Well, I've got a fresh hot cup of coffee for you. Daddy made it a little while ago, but it should still be good. It is so beautiful out today! I thought maybe later we could go for a walk around the neighborhood. If you want, we can drive up to the park in Oakland County; get some exercise.
- Marcus: Yeah. Sounds good.
- Lynda: What are you doing?
- Marcus: Just writing.
- Lynda: Well, I am starting to get hungry; I've been up since seven. Do you wanna come downstairs and have breakfast with me? I could make us scrambled eggs, hash browns.
- Marcus: Not, uh- Not right now. I'd rather get done with this paragraph first before, um- so I don't have to think about it.
- Lynda: So, what's it about? Your article. Or "film". I know you said it had to do with a boy who feels misplaced, like he doesn't fit in anywhere. Have you thought about anything else to add to that? Maybe who this boy is, what his personality's like, what goals he's trying to reach? I mean, what is it that's making him feel so alone in the world?
- Marcus: No, I haven't decided on any of that yet.
- Lynda: You know, if you want, I can help you come up with some ideas. I'll admit, writing was never my strongest subject, but don't think that you didn't get your creativity from someone in the family!
- Marcus: Mom... (removes his gaze irritably from the computer screen and turns around to face Lynda) I'm sorry, if you could- I feel a lot better if I'm in here by myself when I'm writing, you know. Just... quiet.
- Lynda: (meekly) Oh, okay. I understand.
- (Marcus turns back toward the computer and Lynda sets the mug of coffee down on the writing desk. Then she bends over and kisses the top of his head before leaving the bedroom and quietly shutting the door behind her)
Marcus and Lynda take a walk around the neighborhood
- Lynda: We're gonna have pavers covering the driveway. And the steps- the front steps that lead to the house, I wanna have them replaced with brick pavers like the ones our neighbors have down the street over there. And wherever you see black in the concrete - you know, like asphalt - that's gonna be all cement instead. We are gonna have the fanciest house in the neighborhood, I kid you not!
- Marcus: I like our house the way it is.
- Lynda: Oh, I love our home too. It's just... I don't know, time for a change. The last thing we had done was our upstairs bathroom and that was like, what, three years ago? I'm sick of looking at all those cracks! Hopefully, your father will give in and we can get started on it by the summer.
- Marcus: I wouldn't hold my breath. He's not really a fan of throwing away money on the house, is he?
- Lynda: Believe me, you don't have to tell me that. But you know what? We have so much saved up in the bank. What's the point of having all that money if you can't enjoy it once in a while? I mean, what are we even saving it for? When we're all dead?
- Marcus: Yeah, I guess we'll see.
- Lynda: So, how's it going with your, uh- with your classes?
- Marcus: Fine. I guess.
- Lynda: "Fine"? Any other adjectives you can pile on? You know, just so I can feel your enthusiasm and passion for all things college.
- (Marcus snickers and shakes his head)
- Lynda: Are there any... distractions you think I should know about?
- Marcus: I don't, uh- What do you mean?
- Lynda: At your school. Maybe wearing some lipstick and a pretty skirt. Making it impossible to concentrate on an exam.
- Marcus: Oh. Uh... Not sure I feel comfortable talking about that with... you know. It's kinda weird.
- Lynda: What? Because I'm your mother, you can't talk to me about girls? Don't be silly! I was one of them too, believe it or not. A long time ago.
- Marcus: (shrugs) I don't know. What if I asked you about your love life? How are things going with you and Dad in the bedroom? Everything functioning properly? All the parts... intact?
- Lynda: (laughs) Um, actually, (clears her throat) since you asked, me and Daddy were getting ready to... do the business last night but then someone came wandering into our room and made us restrict ourselves. Thank you for that, by the way.