Based on a true story. Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) is a nun in rural Louisiana who receives a letter from Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn), a convict who is to be executed for the rape and murder of two teenagers. After meeting Matthew, Sister Helen agrees to serve as spiritual counselor and attempt to stay the execution. However, Matthew's claims of innocence seem shaky at best, and it's clear he's a reprehensible, amoral racist. When it becomes obvious that Matthew's sentence will be carried out, Sister Helen offers what comfort she can to Matthew, but also tries to guide him to an open admission of the extent of his crimes and an acceptance of divine forgiveness. Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for her performance as Sister Prejean, and Sean Penn was similarly nominated for Best Actor as Matthew.