Bill Birney Screenwriter
Synopsis - Where We Are
WHERE WE ARE
Dan and Judy Byers are picnicking with their kids Sara and Robin at a busy park by a lake. Dan needs to leave in time to catch the play-offs, but Judy and Sara want to go out in the motorboat. They come to an agreement. She will take it out for 20 minutes while Dan and Robin stay and clean up. Everything is going as planned, until she starts the boat. A build-up of gas causes it to explode, killing her and Sara instantly. When the slow-motion ball of flame engulfs the area, the scene turns into a chaotic swirl of frantic people, cops, and paramedics running everywhere, and Dan and Robin are the center of it all. While in a state of shock, they are pelted from all angles by people with questions and well-wishers with sympathetic bromides. Dan tells them repeatedly about a gas valve that must’ve been left on, but the cops and paramedics won’t let up.
At the hospital, people try to ease their panic with textbook answers and concerned expressions. Finally, a cop appears to ask Dan where he wants the bodies taken after the autopsy – the first time he has an inkling that his wife and daughter are dead – and he melts down. A couple days later, a neighbor Fran sets up a gathering of neighbors, friends, relatives, and strangers at Dan’s house. They eat food and take turns giving Dan and Robin useless information and sympathetic words. After it’s over Dan and Robin have time to connect for just a moment, then Howie appears from the bathroom.
Howie is a big, plain-talking guy with a son on Robin’s soccer team, the first person we’ve seen who doesn’t sound like a Hallmark card. He asks Dan to walk him out to his car. On the way, he tells Dan that his wife died when the car he was driving crashed, and of all the gut-wrenching sorrow, feelings of emptiness, and fear that resulted. He talks about standing on the edge of a cliff, knowing he couldn’t go back, but knowing he couldn’t go forward because the pain would be too enormous to bear. Then, he tells Dan the solution is to jump off, and he will see that everything he’s ever thought about the abyss is wrong, that you live. The answer is to let go and just be where you are. He finishes by giving Dan a giant box of Costco cookies, telling him they’re edge cookies. Next day, it’s back to unreality and the funeral service with more phony advice and sympathy.
After a couple of weeks, they go back to work and school. Dan must learn how to be a single dad and Robin must figure out how to be normal in a world turned upside down. Dan makes mistakes at work and has trouble dealing with the pressure. His boss offers to give him more time off, but Dan worries about someone taking his job. Trudy his sister-in-law adds to the pressure, telling Dan he should take Robin to a therapist he can’t afford. At a McDonalds, Robin refuses to eat and tells Dan he’s not mom. Finally, Dan takes Robin to a child psychiatrist, who tells him the obvious, but offers no financial solutions. The final straw comes when Trudy tells Dan she wants to take over the care of Robin and attacks his plan to simply allow time to heal.
With pressure coming from every direction, Dan has a major panic attack, while driving to school and work one morning. Robin tells Dan it’s been happening to him too. Dan says, “We're going to get better, pal. We're going to forget and we're going to learn how to live. Just you and me.”
At work, Dan is confronted by a customer with a stupid complaint, and something snaps. He abandons the customer and drives off. Then, he picks up Robin at school, shuts off his cell phone and escapes down a two-lane desert highway. Trudy pushes Dan’s boss to call the police, but Bob prefers to wait it out. In the car, Robin awakens crying and they hug. Then, Trudy goes to the police, telling them Dan is unfit to be a parent, and has attempted suicide. Dan and Robin have a good talk at a café, as they begin to enjoy their time together, and Robin’s appetite returns. They explore a Monument Valley overlook, talk about a rattle snake Robin finds, and talk about friends and video games on a park trail. At the second motel, Dan tells Robin he’s going to call work the next day, as they watch TV and eat pizza in their underwear.
Next morning, they relax by the pool and talk about going home. But when they get back to the room, there’s a knock on the door.
Two officers from the Gallup police, Yates and Garcia, take the two into custody and haul them down to the station. While Yates questions Dan about why he left work unexpectedly, took his son out of school, and engaged in a wild unplanned drive, a child therapist questions Robin about how Dan’s unpredictable behavior affects him. Clearly Trudy’s complaint has hit a chord with the therapist, who tries her best to get Robin to come down on Dan. Ultimately, Yates gets Dan to open up emotionally about his intentions and make a promise to go home right away, and the cops return Dan and Robin to the motel. They finish packing and Dan checks to make sure the gun he brought is still in the trunk. Then, the two continue their trip.
They choose a narrow bypass road rather than stay on the interstate. Robin and Dan talk about how people feel sorry for them and think they’re helping, but nobody understands. Only the people who have had everything taken from them get it. The weather turns sour, and rain and hail come down in buckets. The road switches from asphalt to mud and eventually stops altogether. Behind a barricade lay the remains of a washed-out bridge over a one-hundred-foot chasm. After Dan checks it out, he turns back to the car and sees Robin walking along the edge. When he shouts for Robin to get back in the car, a strong gust of wind knocks him to the ground and pushes Robin into the abyss. Robin slides down the embankment 20 feet and lands on a boulder. Dan gets the gun out of the trunk and points it at his temple as he screams into the deluge. Then, he sees Robin bent over the rock below and puts it away.
He tries to lower himself gently over the edge, but the mud he was holding on to breaks away and he slides down, landing on a chunk of concrete. He makes his way slowly onto the boulder where Robin lies. He can tell Robin is alive but unconscious. All he can do is wait it out. Later that night, the rain is gone, and he says a simple prayer but doesn’t expect any kind of miracle. He takes the gun out of his pocket and sets it on the rock. Then, he hears it slide away.
The next morning, he awakens to a gunshot. It’s Robin. He’s standing, holding the gun. He sits next to Dan, who immediately tosses the gun into the abyss. They seem comfortable and happy sitting on the rock together, even though everything appears to be falling apart around them. Robin looks out and says, “Right here is where we are.” As the camera pulls back, we see a cruiser with two state troopers checking around the car and over the edge.