Some movies like to stick their toe in the stream of allegory. Northfork jumps right in. Set in 1955, this film by brothers Michael and Mark Polish (Twin Falls, Idaho, and Jackpot) is about a small Montana town about to be flooded to make way for a hydroelectric plant. (Northfork is a fictitious burg, but in that era many towns were eliminated just this way.) As the story begins, Northfork is already deserted save for a few stragglers. Cleaning them out of their homes and taking them to "higher ground" is the responsibility of the "evacuation committee," six men in black suits and hats.

The lead team is headed by Walter O'Brien (James Woods) and his son, Willis (Mark Polish), who try to convince the remaining townsfolk to move on while arguing about whether to exhume the remains of their dear departed wife and mother from the local cemetery. (Walter argues that once the water rises, the late Mrs. O'Brien will be "the catch of the day.")

The story of the evacuation committee takes up the lion's share of screen time, but the heart of the movie is a sickly orphan (first-time actor Duel Fames) cared for by the grizzled Father Harlan (Nick Nolte). Irwin has been returned to the orphanage by weepy foster parents who complain that he is too ill to make "the journey."