In this socially conscious drama with romantic overtones, Iris (Jane Fonda) is a working mother with a job at a large commercial bakery who is still getting over the death of her husband, though her circumstances don't give her much time to grieve. She's sharing her house with her two children, Kelly (Martha Plimpton) and Richard (Harley Cross), her unemployed sister Sharon (Swoosie Kurtz), and her thuggish brother-in-law. The tensions at home become even greater when teenage Kelly announces that she's pregnant. One of the few bright spots in her life is her blossoming friendship with Stanley (Robert DeNiro), a nice guy who works in the bakery's cafeteria. However, Iris starts noticing a few odd things about Stanley and it slowly dawns on her that he can't read. When the boss figures this out, Stanley loses his job -- an especially troubling development, as Stanley has just had to put his father in a retirement home. Homeless and out of work, Stanley turns to Iris with a special request -- he'd like her to teach him how to read.