In this balanced, six-hour epos, filmmaker David Sutherland chronicles the coming of age of two adolescents in one of the poorest parts of America, the vast green hills of eastern Kentucky. This is where Jesus calls out to humanity from billboards. For five years, from 1999 to 2004, Sutherland filmed the daily existence of the boys, who both come from disadvantaged families and have been left to rely on themselves to make something of their lives. Chris Johnson lives with his alcoholic father, worn out mother, brother and sister in a trailer park. Cody Perkins, whose father shot his mother to death before turning the gun on himself, lives with his step-grandmother. Both boys go to the same special school, where the faculty tries to give the problematic students a push in the right direction. In spite of it all, the very religious Cody (who even started a Christian rock band) and the good-hearted Chris (who is torn between caring for his family and his own future) persevere until they have their diplomas. But what then? By combining the images with the subjects' commentary on their own behaviour and experiences, as well as that of parents and teachers, Sutherland has made an exceptional, three-dimensional portrait.