This film is the story of a young girl and her quest to "purify" herself. Angela (Miranda Stuart Rhyne) is a 10-year-old girl trying to cope with a dysfunctional family. Her parents are former performers who have resigned themselves to the loss of their dreams. They are now having problems in their relationship. Her mother Mae (Anna Thomson) has drastic mood shifts that bring her from manic happiness to utter misery. Her father Andrew (John Ventimiglia) tries to hold everyone together, but Mae's vacillations are becoming more than he can manage.
Angela tries to cope by inventing an imaginary universe of 'order' for herself and her little sister. Left to figure out everything for themselves, she grabs at scraps of religion, superstition, and fantasy to try to make some sense out of the world and understand the difference between good and evil.
Adrift, she and her six-year-old sister Ellie (Charlotte Eve Blythe) concoct magical rituals and have visions of fallen angels and the Virgin Mary; reading signs in the way a towel falls off a chair or a tool falls off a truck, they set off to find their way to heaven. They wander through the neighborhood, meet a lot of strange people, and try to find a way to absolve themselves of whatever 'sins' they may have committed, and 'go to heaven'.
At first, the stories that Angela tells her little sister are mainly meant to scare her into submission. But as time goes on, and her mother succumbs to mental illness, Angela becomes obsessed with the idea that the only way her mother is going to get better is if she and her sister can wash away all of their sins.
Another perspective could be that Angela has inherited her mother's mental illness that is now beginning to manifest itself. Angela does appear to display some common attributes of what could be described as religious mania brought on by schizophrenia or a similar mental illness that involves visual and auditory hallucinations.
According to an article in The New York Times, Angela is a "disturbing film" that "is at its best when looking at the world through Angela's eyes before she has gone numb."