Patty Looper Sills is a homeless alcoholic when she enters the life of documentary filmmaker John Dentino, begging for money. He has his own reasons to document her story, and he gets involved in her life for several years - longer than he would have liked. Since the psychologically damaged Patty abandoned her two children 25 years ago, she has been train hopping her way around the United States. She ends up on Skid Row, the notorious homeless district of downtown Los Angeles, determined to reconnect with her family. During the period Dentino is filming her, we meet her equally scarred son Darrell and daughter Dee Ann. Like their mother, they are constantly battling addiction, and Darrell has a criminal past. Patty sometimes gets terribly drunk and paranoid, and then Dentino brings her from family member to family member, hoping for reconciliation and perhaps a place for her to stay. As this dark road movie unfolds, it takes them to gas stations, parking lots and diners, and we see the seamy side of American life. Before Dentino realizes it, he's getting far too deeply involved in a shocking family history, one that sheds a completely different light on the forgiveness Patty is so desperate to find.