John Duigan's films (Flirting, The Journey of August King) are aimed at those who have a soft spot in their hearts for misfits and outsiders. In this unusual adult fairy tale, based on an original screenplay by Naomi Wallace, Sam Rockwell plays 21-year-old Trent Burns, a poor laborer who mows lawns in Camelot Gardens, a suburban gated community in Louisville, Kentucky. He is treated like dirt by those who hire him and by the security guard who expects the worst of him.

The only one to take his side and to find him interesting is 10-year-old Devon Stockard (Mischa Barton). Her upwardly mobile parents (Christopher McDonald and Kathleen Quinlan) want Devon to fit in but, as a survivor of heart surgery, she has other priorities. After discovering Trent's trailer in a wooded area, she becomes his secret friend. They have both faced death and come out on the other side alive. They are both free spirits seeking a chance to soar. However, when Devon's parents discover what she's doing, they react with anger. Lawn Dogs vividly depicts the animosity of class warfare and the sad plight of those who dare to take a stand against conformity.