For two years Ashley Colton, a rough, ragged beauty in her mid-twenties, has walked
a tightrope, trying to prove that she is fit to be a mother and regain custody of her son.
She has survived on a series of minimum wage jobs and endured the probing scrutiny
of home visits from Social Services. Cynical and embittered, she is convinced her son
was taken because she is poor, and she carries a class rage that is difficult to control.
But while Ashley sees herself as a victim, we see a woman who has lost her child
because she is not ready to be a mother.
A surprise visit from her father, a truck driver living in Mexico, brings Ashley back
into a turbulent and unresolved relationship. On a trip to Nuevo Laredo, she discovers
that her father is smuggling immigrants across the border. Suddenly, in the vast,
unforgiving landscape of south Texas, Ashley glimpses a solution to her problems
and is lured by the prospect of easy money into the role of a coyote. Her improvised
plan quickly goes awry, and Ashley finds herself stranded with a young girl whose
mother disappeared in the late night river crossing. Failing in her attempts to abandon
the girl, she begins a journey in search of the girl’s missing mother.
Together with the girl, Ashley travels through the borderlands of Nuevo Laredo and
along the banks of the Rio Grande, retracing the steps of the immigrant journey.
When she finally learns that the girl’s mother drowned, Ashley decides to bring the
girl back to her village in southern Mexico. Along the way, she discovers something
unexpected, something she didn’t even know she had – her own mothering instinct.