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The film tells of Gene Garrison (Gene Hackman): he has met a young woman he wants to marry and has dreams of leaving New York for California, where he wants to reside to teach. All seems well, but he soon learns that his mother is dead, and worse, his father (Douglas) is starting to get sick. A few doctors give him a few months to live, but he is expecting Gene to be the man in the family to watch over him. Others, like his sister Alice (Parsons) don't want him to be at the father's call. Gene and his family must decide what will be.