An elderly community handyman and notorious curmudgeon effectively isolates himself from his friends and neighbors by suing his lifelong best friend over a minor transgression in director Neal Miller
's character-driven comedy drama. Flagg Purdy (Alan Arkin
) is a cantankerous old coot who prides himself on principle. Despite Flagg's gruff exterior, his longtime wife, Ada (Barbara Dana
), still cherishes her husband, and knows that his heart has always been in the right place. The pair's six grown children know too that their father has always meant well, even in times when his questionable parenting skills may have fallen a little on the heavy-handed side. One day, while playing his weekly game of checkers with friend and neighbor Gus Falk (Austin Pendleton
), Flagg angrily accuses his nonplussed opponent of cheating. Though Gus is initially able to laugh off the accusation, the conflict soon escalates when Flagg storms into Gus' general store complaining that his friend's sheep have been relieving themselves a little too close to the well that supplies the Purdys' drinking water. When Gus retorts by pointing out that it is his well, and that the sheep are also his, the enraged Flagg responds by suing his neighbor. Though a surprise witness nets Flagg an unexpected win in the courtroom, the resulting effect that his litigious actions have on the family's already tenuous community relations soon leave his family in the lurch. Subsequently retiring to his "deathbed" and requesting the presence of his children before he bids the cruel and uncaring world a final farewell, Flagg is forced to consider that he may be more like his stubborn father than he would care to admit as, one by one, his offspring fail to bring their father back from the "brink."