Harvey Keitel stars as Vernon Dabney, the volatile patriarch of a poor family in Tidewater, Virginia. Proud descendants of aristocratic plantation owners, the Dabneys have fallen on hard times. Now, in the depths of the Great Depression, an angry and desperate Dabney must bootleg liquor to provide for his wife, Trixie (Andie MacDowell), and their seven children. One fateful summer day in 1935, Shadrach (John Franklin Sawyer), a 99-year-old former slave, appears on the Dabneys' doorstep. He has walked from Alabama in order to spend his last days, and be buried, on the old Dabney plantation where he was born into slavery. Trixie and the kids fall instantly for Shadrach's charm; Vernon will struggle with his own entrenched beliefs before being able to fulfill Shadrach's dying wishes with honor and dignity.