Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore) is a high school English teacher in the small town of Kingston, Pennsylvania. She is passionate about her subject and popular with her students, but lives alone in simple circumstances. Cursed with a hopeless romantic soul, she lives in a world of men unable to match her impossible standards. When her former star pupil Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano) returns from New York, crushed and insecure after failing to succeed as a playwright, Linda convinces him to produce his play at the school, as the play is far too good to never reach a stage. Jason's overbearing father, Dr. Tom Sherwood (Greg Kinnear), pressures him to attend law school instead, which he finally relents to lest his ulcer be the end of him with no other prospects in sight. Complications arise after Linda and Jason, in a moment of impulsive creative madness, have a sexual encounter on her classroom desk. Various jealousies and rumours ensue, affecting her and everyone around her including the production of Jason's play. When the school heads are confronted with proof of her indiscretion with a former student, Linda is fired on the spot. Embarrassed and in erratic egress from the situation, Linda storms off, gets into a minor car collision, and ends up at an A&E where she's attended to by no other than Dr. Tom Sherwood. When she is moved by his gracious manner after having been mean to him on a previous occasion, she guiltily admits to having had sex with his son.