Twelve-year-old James Neubauer (Trevor Morgan) has still not come to terms with the tragic death of his mother in an automobile accident. He was riding in the car with her and never had a chance to express how much he loved her. James's father Nathan (Ray Liotta) is away on business a lot, and the vulnerable boy wants nothing to do with Mary (Catherine McCormack), his stepmother. He spends most of his time alone or with his Uncle Charlie (Ron Livingston).
One evening while snooping around the ramshackle property of Maddy (Vanessa Redgrave), a local eccentric in the small New England community, James breaks her fence. She insists that he repair it and then hires him to paint it. Slowly, the lonely boy finds himself growing closer to this reclusive woman who loves classical music and fishing.
In a very touching moment, Maddy shares with James a story about the death of her son in the war and a way they discovered to communicate with each other using Morse code after he passed away. Sensing that James hasn't had a chance to express his feelings about his mother's death, Maddy takes him to the bridge where the accident occurred and listens as he pours our his fears and guilt. She reassures him that his mother does indeed know of his love.
When Nathan and Mary discover a diary Maddy has given James containing her after-death communications with her son, they tell her she has no right to impose her fantasies upon a troubled 12-year-old. They demand she not see James anymore. However, when she has a heart attack, James convinces his father to let him look after her.
A Rumor of Angels is based on Grace Duffie Boylan's Thy Son Liveth: Messages from a Soldier to His Mother, a 100-year-old little book containing inspiring messages about the afterlife. Cowriters James Eric and Jamie Horton were intrigued by its suggestion that death is a new beginning and communication with the dead is possible. Director Peter O'Fallon also was intrigued by this material and joined them in updating the story to contemporary times for the screen.
The result of this collaboration is a soul-stirring drama, bolstered by exceptionally strong performances by Vanessa Redgrave and Trevor Morgan, about the dynamics of grief, the importance of cross-generational friendships, and the nature of love. The idea that death is not the end but merely a transition is a common tenet in most of the world's religions. It's no wonder, then, that despite a lack of hard evidence and scientific proof, millions of people around the globe claim to be in some form of contact with deceased loved ones. This deeply spiritual film taps into the meaning and consolation that can result from these afterlife communications.