Moscow. 1992. Sasha Greenberg, (Sam Robards,) an astrophysicist, returns to the city of his birth after 17 years of exile. Formerly reviled as a traitor, he is now welcomed back as a hero. The period of "Perestroika" (restructuring) has turned everything upside down.
Sasha has been invited to deliver an important paper about the structure of the universe. He's thought to have made positive gains toward making sense of the cosmos. But it's time of great chaos in his own life. His marriage, to an American scientist, (Ally Sheedy) who helped him leave, has all but failed. His relationship with a beautiful filmmaker has reached an impasse. Complicating matters, Sasha suspects that a fiery young adolescent, formerly unknown to him, might be his daughter.
No one, save a few opportunists, seems prepared for this new Russia. Capitalism has undermined the communist system. Vodka is rationed. Old people can barely feed themselves. Films of polluted seas, rivers on fire, and dying forests, are seeing the light of day for the first time. People are saying things in public that formerly would have sent them to prison. Many expect revolution. Some welcome it.
Sasha lives in a state of constant revelation. Old friends who denounced him as a traitor rush him with open arms. Painful memories of anti Semitism return to haunt him. A colleague and lover all but drags him back to her bed.
In the midst of all this turmoil Sasha is expected to deliver a theory about the
coherence of our universe. But what he's feeling is overwhelming chaos, and the
suspicion that man is the bane of a world in peril.
As all this swirls around him Sasha is counseled by Gross, his wily but supportive mentor, (F. Murray Abraham.) Gross defected to Russia after World War II and never looked back. Gross' patience and resolve go a long way to helping Sasha maintain his composure. But Gross helped the Soviets develop nuclear weapons. Finally Sasha must reconcile on his own. With all he knows about the world and the devil, is there any redemption for humanity?