No matter how hard we try, we can never insure the safety of our children. The world can be a dangerous place and in one minute everything that we love and cherish can be snatched away. Beth (Michele Pfeiffer in a strong performance) bids farewell to her husband Pat (Treat Williams) in Madison, Wisconsin, and takes her three small children with her to a high school class reunion in Chicago. Beth tells her oldest boy Vincent to look after Ben, his three-year-old brother, while she goes to register. When she returns just a few minutes later, the little boy is gone. Candy Bliss (Whoopi Goldberg), a detective, coordinates a massive and lengthy search for Ben but to no avail. Feelings of guilt and grief plunge Beth into a deep depression. Pat, who dreams of opening his own restaurant, tries to hold the family together but eventually his patience runs out.

The Deep End of the Ocean is based on Jacquelyn Mitchard's 1996 novel. Director Ulu Grosbard's background in theatre enables him to underscore this drama's high-class treatment of the dynamics of grief and loss. Nine years later after the family moves to Chicago, they are reunited with their son, now named Sam (Ryan Merriman). They find him living nearby with his father George (John Kapelos), who was unaware that his now deceased wife had kidnapped the boy. The awkward and at times painful process of bringing Ben back into his birth family is difficult for all parties. Vincent (Jonathan Jackson), who is most in need of forgiveness, receives a surprising blessing in the film's most heart affecting scene as the two brothers play basketball. The Deep End of the Ocean makes it clear that sometimes healing can only take place when love means letting go.