A college professor finds his life taking a new direction when he crosses paths with a pair of illegal immigrants in this bittersweet urban drama. Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins), a 60-something college professor, is treading water. Bored with his life and with no passion for his work, he takes up classical piano lessons to try and fill the vacuum. When his college sends him to Manhattan for a conference, he returns to his apartment to find a young couple have taken up residence. Having fallen foul of a real-estate scam, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), a Syrian, and his Senegalese girlfriend Zainab (Dania Gurira), are homeless. Generously, Walter lets them both stay, and Tarek, in return, offers to teach the academic how to play the African drum. The vibrant rhythms of the drum soon have a therapeutic effect on the professor's flagging spirit, leading him to explore New York's diverse musical life. The two men, previously separated by culture and age, quickly develop a genuine and deep friendship. When Tarek is suddenly arrested by the authorities and faces deportation, Walter realises that he has to help his friend at all costs, discovering a passion he thought was lost forever.