An innocent and mild-mannered boy grows up fast and ugly as his choice of friends sucks him into another family's self-destructive tailspin: a relentlessly hardscrabble debut. In the northern reaches of rural Vermont, where dirt roads are fast tracks for renegades and every house and trailer hides a tragedy, 16-year-old Jessup is simply trying to come to terms with a first awkward romance. After going the whole season without kissing the girl who was a summer visitor, he's now left with fishing and daydreaming to occupy his time. All that changes, however, on the day when Reg nearly runs him over as Jessup is trying to hitch a ride after his bike breaks down. Reg is older, a hard-driving, hard-drinking, hard-nosed ex-con with a big marijuana harvest to haul out of the mountains and a grudge against a local pair of brothers who are also in the cultivation business and whom he blames for sending him to prison. He gives Jessup a ride to remember, first introducing him to his family: wheelchair-bound Hal, a weight-guessing barker at county fairs; and Marigold, whose married life hasn't been the same since her logger husband lopped off a piece of his equipment with the chainsaw. Hal and Reg get Jessup so stoned, drunk, and dizzy that he's sick. Then Marigold comes on to him, and when the night is over the boy hardly knows who he is anymore. Worse, the dark side to Reg is swiftly triggered when, in his cabin, he finds a cousin all shot up amid the pot plants. He hatches a malevolent plan, with Jessup's unwitting aid, that's somewhere between suicidal and just crazy. When the smoke clears, Jessup is battered, traumatized by all he's seen, and utterly alone. Absent fathers are the supposed reason for this whole misadventure. Maybe, but the characters move at the speed of light toward rack and ruin, and the psychology can't keep up.
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