Based on the memoir Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, the film is a semi-autobiographical account of Burroughs' childhood. His mother (an aspiring poet, played by Annette Bening, who idolises Anne Sexton), perceiving an ill-fated upbringing, places him under the care of her unorthodox psychiatrist, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), the eccentric patriarch of an oddball family. At the age of twelve, Burroughs (played by Joseph Cross) finds himself in Victorian squalor living an unconventional youth amongst the doctors family, and is subject to irregular visits by his increasingly unsound mother. At one point, Burroughs befriends Neil Bookman (Joseph Fiennes), Finch's adopted 33-year-old son, and the two enter an erratic sexual relationship. The story is of a childhood in which the boundary between reality and fantasy is ignored and finally broken; as, ultimately, is the irreplaceable bond between mother and son. In an interview regarding the movie, Augusten Burroughs stated that he felt the movie was about one's quest for family.