The movie begins at a house party, where Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) eyes April (Kate Winslet) from across the room. They go to the corner, introduce themselves and chat. She says she is learning to be an actress.
Next scene we jump immediately to the end of a play, as the curtain is about to come down. We see April on stage upset, and Frank in the audience with a huge frown on his face. Some people clap and cheer and some are really disappointed with the play, walking by Frank as they go on about how terrible it was. Mrs. Helen Givings (Kathy Bates) walks by and compliments Frank that his wife was terrific in the play. Frank smiles and walks away.
Frank goes backstage looking for April. On the way he sees Milly Campbell (Kathryn Hahn), who was also in the play. She tells Frank that she and her husband Shep (David Harbour) are ready for a drink. Frank agrees and goes to the private dressing room where he finds a devastated April changing. She asks Frank to tell Milly and Shep they cannot go out for a drink, using their nanny as an excuse. Frank and April argue a bit but Frank obliges. We then see a far shot of Frank and April leaving in the hallway of a high school with obvious distance between the two of them, not saying a word, even when they are in the car.
While driving, Frank turns and tells April that it wasn't her fault that the play was bad, it was because it was unprofessional with lousy scripts and amateur actors and actresses around her. Not only does April not appreciate his comments, she asks Frank not to talk about it. They argue some more and Frank pulls the car over. Frank tells April that it's not his fault the play sucked -he is being very supportive and he is not going to put up with anymore of the bullshit she is giving him. April gets out of the car and Frank follows angrily. They scream at each other about how Frank is always trying to talk things out while all she wants to do is have peace and quiet to deal with it herself. The argument gets heated and April insults Frank about trying to be tough and manly. Frank makes a fist and looks like he is about to hit April but he controls his urge to hit her and starts to pound the hood of their car instead, hurting his hand. April asks Frank to take her home. They drive off.
Now the title Revolutionary Road comes to screen.
We see Frank getting ready to go to work. Dressed in a grey suit and a hat, he drives to the station and takes the train into the city. The setting is suburban Connecticut in the 1950s. We now see April stopping to stare at the neighborhood as she is taking out the trash. She flashes back to sitting in the car with Frank while Mrs. Givings, their realtor, is driving. Throughout the drive Mrs. Givings keeps mentioning how the two of them are so different from anyone else in the neighborhood. This is a recurring reference, people mentioning Frank and April Wheeler as the model couple of the town. They pull up to the house they eventually buy and we see how delighted April is with it. Flash back to present day.
Frank is within hundreds of other people heading to work - his face shows just how miserable he is with this everyday routine. While riding the elevator a cute young secretary gives him a glance which puts a smile on Frank's face. On his way to his cubicle Frank trades pleasantries and miseries with his coworkers. He is called into the boss' office for a discussion regarding a bad job he did. (We realize Frank works in Knoxx as a salesperson like his dad did all his life.) He is ticked at being yelled at by his boss so he revises his work with a half-assed, joking attitude that could very well cost him his job. Frank then goes to the cute secretary he saw in the elevator earlier and asks her to type the revised edition for him and asks her out for lunch. During lunch they drink martinis and he calls the office to tell them that he needs the secretary for the day to help him do research. After he hangs up they both laugh. During their conversation, Frank tells the secretary a joke; the joke is that his dad worked all his life at the same company as a salesperson and he thinks that he was the most miserable man he has ever known and swore he would never be like him. Years later he is doing the exact same job his dad did all his life. To top that off, today is his 30th birthday and he is miserable.
Frank and the secretary go to her apartment where they have sex. He then leaves in a hurry with a very casual good-bye, leaving the secretary feeling used. Frank gets home and is greeted with a kiss by a dressed up April. He is then surprised with a birthday cake by April, their son Michael (Ty Simpkins) and their daughter Jennifer (Ryan Simpkins) who sing Happy Birthday to him which bring tears of joy to his eyes.
Around this time of the movie April is flipping through old pictures and finds a picture of Frank and his buddies standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. April has a flashback of the first night she slept with Frank when he told her if he has a choice he would live in Paris where people actually have lives. April tells him that he is the most interesting person she has ever met.
At night after a shower, April asks to talk to Frank. She proposes the idea that between their savings and selling their house they would have enough money to survive without work for six months and wants them to move to Paris. She believes that they pay secretaries so well that Frank can finally have the time to enjoy his life and all and they can get away from this misery they are in right now. At first Frank just laughs off the idea but then begins to buy into it. They agree and hug.
They break the news to their friends Shep and Milly Campbell who are shocked but supportive as Frank and April are so serious and so convincing of how their lives in Paris would be. At night, Shep and Milly laugh at this idea but Milly also cries, maybe at the notion of friends leaving or that the friends are on to better lives than theirs.
April invites Mr. and Mrs. Givings and their troubled son John (Michael Shannon), who currently resides in a psychiatric ward, to a gathering (actually a favor to Mrs. Givings, who believes meeting the perfect couple will do her son good). John is a very blunt man and has no sense of manners at all. Frank and April are patient and allow John to ridicule everything they have to say. Frank and April mention they are leaving their lives here and starting a new one in Paris. This causes John to laugh at everything his mother believed, that the perfect couple couldn't even stand this place. Frank and April ask John to go for a walk with them afterwards.
During the walk, Frank and April learn that John gets electroshock constantly for his mental problems, and in some ways, they bond during the talk. John asks why they are leaving here and Frank's answer is to leave this place of helplessness. John agrees and says it takes a wise man to see it, but a brave man to admit this sense of helplessness.
In the next couple of weeks the Wheelers are preparing for their new lives; April gets their visas and all of their traveling documents taken care of and Frank continues going to work but with so much more joy. They seem to be happier now, no more arguments and definitely very loving.
Frank is called into the boss's office one morning with the chief executive inside as well. Frank is so sure he is going to get fired (which he doesn't care about) for the half-assed work he did a couple of weeks ago. Turns out his half-assed work hit the jackpot and got great reviews within the company which leads them to offer Frank a promotion working with the chief executive on a new project: computers.
Frank doesn't take the job yet, nor does he mention it to April. They are so happy that they are taking this step at a new life that they make love right there in the kitchen.
After a while the chief executive calls Frank in for a fancy dinner to talk about the promotion. The chief executive really wants Frank in and he is tempted but not fully willing to take the job. Frank asks if he knows his father, who worked at the company for 30 years, the chief says no. The chief tells him that a man only gets a couple of chances in life so when the opportunity comes, he better grab onto it as tight as possible because there just might not be another one coming. This gets Frank thinking.
Later, April tells Frank that she is 10 weeks pregnant and they both are worried. She says there are options as long as it is before the 12th week. They agree that a child would not be an option for them to take to Paris as it changes the whole plan. Frank is not supportive of the idea of abortion.
Next we see the Wheelers and the Campbells at the beach enjoying the sunshine and the water. Frank, knowing April can hear the conversation, speaks loudly to Shep about what a great opportunity it is and how much more money he is being offered for the promotion. April notices Frank is starting to lean away from their idea of a new life in Paris and they argue at the beach - Frank jumps into the water to cool off.
At night while they argue some more Frank goes to the restroom and as he is getting a towel he notices an abortion kit on the shelf. He is furious and starts to scream at April. During the argument she mentions that the reason they moved here was because of an unplanned pregnancy and that she doesn't want to decide another part of their lives for the same reason. She said she has no plans to use the kit for sure but she got it just in case. They argue some more and April understands that Paris is no longer an option.
The next day Frank takes the promotion and while staying late, goes out with the young secretary again.
Another night Frank, April, Milly and Shep go out dancing. Milly and Shep are happy that the Paris trip is not going to happen, everyone is happy except for April. Frank asks April to dance but April says no so he dances with Milly instead. At the end of the night when they are leaving their cars are blocked in so since both of their nannies are waiting, April stays with Shep to wait for the car to be moved while Frank takes Milly home to relieve the nannies. April and Shep go back into the bar and start to dance with a lot of flirting and implications which leads to them having sex in his car. Shep tells April that he loves her and April tells him not to talk.
The next day Frank sees how unhappy April is and worries that they haven't slept on the same bed ever since the Paris trip got canceled. He decides to tell April how much he loves her and how he wants to make her happy here at home. He goes so far as to tell her that he had an affair but he ended it. April is not even mad hearing it. She says she feels nothing, because she no longer loves him. Just then, Mrs. Givings stops by along with her husband and her son John. As they eat dinner they mention that Paris is no longer an option and that April is going to have a baby. This gets John upset so he starts to insult Frank and April saying that he is not a man anymore because he is eating his own words about the helplessness and all that. Frank starts to get mad and impatient while John goes on to say Frank only feels like a man because he knocked April up. This gets the Givings kicked out of the house, and on the way out, John jokingly apologizes but says he is happy about one thing, that he is not that kid that is going to be born into this miserable family.
When the Givings leave, April and Frank get into another heated argument. Frank is so emotional and angry that he slams the door, punches the wall, throws lamps, breaks chairs and is completely out of control. April says that if Frank touches her she will scream, Frank holds her hand and she screams and runs out of the house. Frank chases after her into the woods.
April tells Frank to leave her alone, that she doesn't want to talk things out; she just wants to be alone to think it through. Frank complies and leaves her in the woods. While in the house, Frank sits in a chair in the living room, drinking and worrying about April and her safety but when she comes back she does not come into the house, she just keeps smoking right outside the door while Frank stays in the house with the lights off.
The next morning Frank is ready to go to work and he sees a beautiful and 'rejuvenated' April preparing breakfast, asking Frank politely how he wants his eggs. Frank is caught off guard but is relieved that the whole drama is done and they go on to have breakfast. During breakfast, he talks about his work and the new computer to April who appears interested in every word he has to say and tells him he should take pleasure in what he does. They have an awkward goodbye at the door with a kiss and wavery smile from April. Frank asks if she still loves him and she replies with a calm yes. Frank leaves in his car.
Back in the house, April's fragile demeanor cracks and she cries while doing the dishes. She calls Milly to ask her to tell her children that she loves them very much. She boils a pot of water and lays down some towels on the bathroom floor while she holds the abortion kit in her hand as she closes the door. We then see April gently walk down the stairs to the living room where she looks out the window; she bleeds all over the carpet and her skirt, then calls the ambulance.
At the hospital, Frank is worried and crying while Shep comforts him. He talks about broken capillaries and other stuff the doctor told him that he couldn't understand. He finishes with "she did it to her herself." Shep leaves to get Frank some coffee and is seen crying at the vending machine. He returns to see Frank get news that April did not make it because she bled out too much before the ambulance got to her.
Frank runs down the street.
The next scene we see Milly and Shep with a new couple in their house and they are sharing the tragic story of the Wheelers. Milly mentions that Frank moved back into the city with the kids and he was the most devoted father there is, spending all his time with them. Shep walks out to the backyard and Milly follows suit. Shep tells Milly that he no longer wants to talk about the Wheelers and she says okay, both subdued for a minute with memories. They hug and kiss and walk back inside the house.
We see a scene of Frank sitting on a park bench watching his children on the swings, looking sad and thoughtful. When one of his kids calls him, he looks up and smiles softly, looking wistfully a little happier.
In the final scene, Mrs. Givings is sitting on the couch talking to her husband Howard (Richard Easton). She talks about the neighborhood and what it has become. When Howard mentions the Wheelers, Mrs. Givings starts to criticize them as being somewhat neurotic and difficult, neglecting the house. As she is going on and on about it, he begins to turn down his hearing aid, and smiles faintly with the new silence.