Westerns have helped America define itself—stories of men and violence set along an imagined frontier. But what relationship can they have to Bill, 62, and his profoundly brain damaged brother Mike, 48, in the modern San Francisco Bay Area?
In 2000, filmmaker Marie Regan begins filming her father, Bill, as he takes over responsibility for the care of his brother Mike, who has lived in a special school for 40 years. Mike is unable to speak or concentrate, has frequent seizures and is now confined to a wheelchair. While it is hard to tell how much Mike even takes in, one constant in his life has been the family’s belief in his enjoyment of cowboy songs, which Bill tries to incorporate into their new routines.
Soon the songs start to suggest all that Mike cannot say, and what Marie’s optimistic father leaves unsaid. Probing this connection, Marie searches through family history, decades of home movies, and the popular culture of their childhood to uncover the roots of the story in the family’s long history in the West.
The result is both a personal story of two men in the filmmaker’s family, and a reflexive meditation on what it means to be a Western man.