C. S. Lewis once noted: "To the ancients, friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, by comparison, ignores it." Alice (Claire Danes) and Darlene (Kate Beckinsale) grow up in the Midwest as soulmates — together since they were infants and growing in their relationship year by year. After their high school graduation, Alice, the adventuresome one, convinces Darlene to go with her to Bangkok, even though they have told their parents they are going to Hawaii.

The naivete of these two girls is immediately utilized by Nick (Daniel Lapaine), an Australian drug dealer who romances them both in Bangkok and then proposes a trip to Hong Kong. At the airport, the police seize their backpack and find it filled with heroin. The rigid Thai attitude against drugs results in a 33-year sentence for Alice and Darlene in a Thai prison for women that has been nicknamed Brokedown Palace.

Jonathan Kaplan directs this engrossing drama that also stars Bill Pullman and Jacqueline Kim as a husband-and-wife team of lawyers who desperately try to help the beleaguered girls. Lou Diamond Phillips plays a U.S. Embassy official who puts his own self-interest above the cause of justice.

The screenplay by David Arata deftly explores friendship as a school of virtue where trust, loyalty, and honesty are constantly tested. Character in Brokedown Palace is eventually forged through the fire of sacrificial love.