Iris (Jane Fonda) has a rough go of it after the death of her husband. Though still grieving, she needs to support her dysfunctional family and so she lands a job at a bakery. Things start to look up when the kindhearted Stanley (Robert De Niro), a cook in the bakery, comes to her aid after she is mugged. When Iris realizes that Stanley cannot read, she makes it her goal to teach him. As Stanley approaches literacy, their friendship grows into something words cannot express.