Los Angeles, 1990 - Sitting at the Highland Park bench, Richard Jennings struggles to explain to his son Merrick Jennings (5) that his mother is never coming back. As Richard holds sobbing Merrick, he says he’s got him and he’s not going anywhere.
15 years later (2005) the now 21-year-old actor Merrick Jennings, with the release of his new hit film Train to Nowhere, is hearing Oscar rumors. Merrick’s co-star in the film is Samantha Pierce and assumed girlfriend.
Merrick chooses "Without Noah" for his next film, standing up to Richard who detests it. Without Noah is the story of a young boy Noah who kills himself on a stormy night after being outed, written by Cameron Knight.
After Merrick and Cameron meet along the beach at a swanky Hollywood party, the two quickly become friends and Cameron is cast with Merrick in the film. As friction between Merrick and Richard grows, Merrick joins Cameron on a trip home to Oklahoma, where Cameron has not returned in years.
An anonymous dream of a predatory man in bed with a young boy repeats.
As Merrick and Cameron arrive in Oklahoma, it becomes clear Without Noah is autobiographical and Noah was Cameron’s first love until everything unraveled with his suicide. Noah's mother blames Cameron for her son's death and she's also unaware of the film.
Merrick helps Cameron navigate the turbulent waters at home and achieve reconciliation with Noah’s mother, as well as approval for the film. Richard plans and practices proposing to his girlfriend, Vivian. The anonymous dream of a predatory man in bed with a young boy repeats.
On their way back to L.A., Cameron and Merrick stop in Vegas to visit Merrick's uncle. On a balcony overlooking Vegas Cameron tells Merrick's he feels ready to move on and love again. At the same time, Richard treats Vivian to the opera for her birthday. With the ring hidden in the limousine arm rest, Richard attempts to propose to her only to be interrupted by a call.
Cameron and Merrick, still on the balcony, share their first kiss. Richard's phone call: Merrick’s mother has died. Merrick, accompanied by his uncle, returns home to L.A.
After an emotional funeral, Merrick distances himself from Cameron. Merrick and Samantha almost sleep together before Merrick flashes back to various moments with Cameron. Merrick comes out to her. Later the same night, Merrick comes out to Cameron.
The anonymous dream of the predatory man in bed with the young boy, transforms into the brutal nightmare of young Richard being raped by a man. Richard wakes up hyperventilating and emotionally distraught.
As Merrick starts to embrace his hopeful future, and with nothing holding the two back, him and Cameron kiss once again. This time it turns into making out in the doorway of Cameron's apartment, but unbeknownst to them, a paparazzi is photographing them.
The press swarms Cameron’s apartment the next day. Cameron sends a warning text to Merrick as the pictures spread.
A thunderstorm brews as Richard, having seen the photos, confronts Merrick about them in a shaky voice. Merrick does not lie. He says it. He likes Cameron.
Richard hyperventilates as the buried trauma from his past releases upon Merrick in a scary torrent.
Richard struggles for air, barely able to stand and begs Merrick for it not to be true. Merrick is scared and hurt as he goes to leave, running into Vivian who heard everything. Merrick and Vivian leave Richard.
Cameron, alone in his apartment as the storm rages, has yet to hear back from Merrick as he flashes back to the stormy night Noah killed himself - terrified it may happen again. A car door closing sends Cameron flying out of the Apartment and into the parking lot where Merrick walks into his arms.
Richard reveals his trauma to his parents for the first time in his life. Richard explains how awful he feels, how it may be impossible to repair things with Merrick and Vivian. At the same time, press swarm Merrick as he learns Without Noah has been put on pause due to not only the frenzy, but Richard's behavior.
Richard nostalgically looks through a photo-album of Merrick over the years, as a group of Hollywood executives talk carelessly about Merrick. As they keep talking Richard finally blows up at them. His blowup leaves no doubt, Richard is thinking only about Merrick.
After kicking the executives out of the house, in an angry huff, Richard charges down the driveway, running into the postman who hands him a single letter. Reading the front of the letter changes Richard's demeanor. Richard walks to Highland Park and sits at the same bench where 15 years earlier he told Merrick his mother was never coming back.
Richard starts crying the moment he hears Merrick say, "Dad"? from behind. In an emotional culmination, Richard begs Merrick to know that his breakdown was not meant for him and that he is sorry. Richard struggles to fully voice his trauma. Merrick hugs and embraces Richard, rather than him have to say more.
Merrick asks Richard if he can accept Merrick, as he is, and Richard tells him there's not a damn thing wrong with him. As Richard consoles Merrick, he reminds him he’s got him and he’s still not going anywhere.
Merrick notices the letter as Richard tosses it to him. It's from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Merrick is stunned to read he’s been nominated for Best Actor. Merrick wins Best Actor.
In Merrick’s acceptance speech, he voices the pain of being abandoned by his mother and how it motivated him and led him to hide his true self. Merrick tells Cameron he loved him the moment they met. Merrick thanks Richard and considers the award "theirs". He thanks Richard for always being there for him and not going anywhere.
There’s still an iciness between Richard and Vivian, who remain in the back of the Jennings limousine after the Oscars. After dropping Vivian off at her house, Richard has no idea what to say to her as the car drives away. He slams his fist down on the console. The ring - It's still in there! He speeds back to her house and proposes to her. She accepts.
Merrick and Cameron have begun their life together and were able to get Without Noah made. Merrick is writing a screenplay of his own. We know the title - American Star.