Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke) took his first breath of life inside the confines of a prison wall. Seized by the state's child services program, the fatherless child of an inmate mother is eventually placed in the care of a reverend and his wife. There he regularly attends church services with his foster brothers. But while the preacher is out saving the souls of his congregation, Mrs. Tate (Novella Nelson) and her daughter Nadine (Yolanda Ross) resort to physical, verbal and sexual maltreatment of their young wards.
Abandoned by the social system at age 18, Antwone is turned out on the streets with a pittance of cash and no future in sight. After witnessing a brutal murder, he signs up to serve his country in the U.S. Navy. But when his inclination for violent outbreaks begins to disrupt life in the barracks, he is sent to see the base psychiatrist, Dr. Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington). Refusing to talk, Antwone wiles away his first sessions in silence, until a comfortable bond develops between the two officers. Finally, the short-tempered sailor unloads the sordid details of his abusive upbringing.
Encouraged by the doctor and his wife, Berta (Salli Richardson), Antwone boards a plane bound for Cleveland. With the gentle support of his fellow naval officer, Cheryl (Joy Bryant), he searches for the family he never knew and the mother who failed to come to his rescue.
Denzel Washington makes his directorial debut in this poignant film about the senseless acts of murder, abuse and abandonment that color this child's existence. Based on the real life experiences of the film's screenwriter, Antwone Fisher explores those events and the conscious choices needed to make a course correction in life.
The ability to face challenges and the power of forgiveness are strong themes in this journey. But parents are cautioned to take into account the movie's disturbing subject matter and language (including a couple of sexual expletives and the repeated use of a racial slur), before letting older teens get caught in the wake of these rough waters.