Ulysses "Ulee" Jackson (Peter Fonda) is a middle-aged beekeeper in the tupelo marshes of the Florida panhandle. His vocation has been passed down through the generations of his family. Although he finds this solitary work to be satisfying, Ulee uses it to keep himself isolated from the overwhelming sense of pain and loss he feels. His experiences in the Vietnam War have left him with a limp and a guilty conscience over having outlived his buddies. In addition, he hasn't been able to cope with the death of his wife Penelope six years ago.

Ulee's son Jimmy (Tom Wood) is serving a prison sentence for armed robbery, and his daughter-in-law Helen (Christine Dunford) ran off two years ago, leaving him as the sole caretaker for teenage Casey (Jessica Biel) and her younger sister Penny (Vanessa Zima). Then Jimmy asks his father to retrieve Helen in Orlando where she's staying with his two partners-in-crime, Eddie (Steven Flynn) and Ferris (Dewey Weber). It turns out she's in a drug stupor, unable to take care of herself. Helen has inadvertently told Eddie and Ferris that Jimmy has stowed away $100,000 from the robbery. These two want the money in exchange for the safety of Ulee's family.

Bringing Helen home, the beekeeper realizes that nothing will ever be the same again. Following his heart rather than his head, Ulee also sees that he will need some help with Helen. Connie Hope (Patricia Richardson), a neighbor and a nurse, looks after her as she goes through drug withdrawal. At the same time that he's processing his prize tupelo honey for his distributors, Ulee comes up with a way to keep his family from harm's way. Even more important, he discovers that love is a way back to all of them.

In Ulee's Gold writer and director Victor Nunez (Ruby in Paradise) shows us how the spiritual practice of compassion opens up this troubled man and puts him on the path of heart. For the first time, Ulee gets in touch with his feminine side, acknowledges the mystery of life, jettisons some of his rigid ideas, accepts help, and even begins to see his enemies as suffering souls similar to himself.