Two women of dramatically different social, economic, and ethnic circumstances find themselves locked into a bitter child custody dispute in this emotionally powerful drama. Khailia Richards (Halle Berry) is a poor and drug-addicted single mother who, while stumbling out of a crack house one night, accidentally leaves her infant son Isaiah in a cardboard box near a trash heap. The next morning, Khailia realizes to her horror that she left her baby behind, and she runs back to the crack spot to retrieve him. However, the baby is missing, and after much search, she presumes that he must be dead. As it turns out, the baby was spotted in the nick of time by sanitation workers and rushed to a hospital, where at the insistence of social worker Margaret Lewin (Jessica Lange) the baby's life was saved. Margaret's heart goes out to the baby, who, along with illnesses brought about by neglect, suffers from emotional and educational problems often associated with children whose mothers used cocaine during pregnancy. Margaret adopts Isaiah and raises the child with the help of her husband Charles (David Strathairn). Four years later, Khailia has successfully gone through drug rehabilitation and holds down a steady and responsible job as a nanny and housekeeper. She learns by chance that Isaiah is still alive, and she quickly hires an attorney, Kadar Lewis (Samuel L. Jackson), to help her reclaim custody of her son. However, Margaret loves the child and is not about to give him up without a battle in court. LaTanya Richardson plays Caroline Jones, the attorney Kadar Lewis squares off against in court; in real life, Richardson and Jackson are married.
by Mark Deming synopsis