In Paradise, a rather tame remake of the wonderful 1987 French film Le Grand Chemin, families are in tatters, split and torn asunder. A little boy hasn't been told that his father has left for good. A little girl obsesses over the true identity of the man responsible for her birth. And a couple who lost their young son in an accident are closed off from each other in a terrible knot of guilt, grief, and anger.

Writer and director Mary Agnes Donoghue uses the rustic small town called Paradise as the setting for her meditation upon fear. Ten-year-old Willard (Elijah Wood) is sent by his mother to spend some time with Lily (Melanie Griffith) and Ben Reed (Don Johnson). He is soon befriended by Billie Pike (Thora Birch), a tomboy who helps this city boy confront his many anxieties. He, in turn, serves as a catalyst for the Reeds, who come to see that only the healing power of love can release them from grief.