Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton), a widower, and his son, Sonny (Heath Ledger), are corrections officers in the local prison. They reside in Louisiana with Hank's ailing father, Buck (Peter Boyle), an unwavering racist whose wife committed suicide. Hank's hateful attitude toward others, strongly influenced by his father, extends to his son, and members of the neighboring community.
As Hank and Sonny assist in the execution of convicted murderer Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs), the proceedings prove too intense for Sonny, who collapses and then begins to vomit as he is leading Lawrence to the electric chair. Hank beats up Sonny in the jail's bathroom afterwards for being so "soft". Some time later, Hank drags Sonny out of bed and tells him to get out of the house. Unable to cope with the estrangement, Sonny grabs a gun. The confrontation ends in their living room with Hank at gunpoint, lying on the carpet, and Sonny in Buck's customary chair. Sonny asks his father, "You hate me, don't you?" After his father calmly confirms that he does and always has, Sonny responds, "Well, I always loved you," and then shoots himself in the heart. Hank subsequently buries Sonny in the back garden, quits his job at the prison, burns his uniform in the backyard, and locks the door of Sonny's room up tightly. Buck calls him a quitter.
During the years of Lawrence's imprisonment, his wife, Leticia (Halle Berry), has been struggling while raising their son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun), who has inherited his father's artistic talent. She goads the boy to the point of abuse over his obesity. Along with her domestic problems, Leticia struggles financially, leading to the loss of the family car and, worse, an eviction notice on her house. In desperate need of money, Leticia takes a job at a diner frequented by Hank. One rainy night, Leticia and Tyrell are walking down a soaked highway when Tyrell is struck by a car. Hank happens to be driving along and sees Leticia and Tyrell. He initially drives past, like the cars before him, but then turns around, picks Leticia and Tyrell up, and takes them to a hospital, but Tyrell dies upon arrival and Hank lends his shoulder for Leticia to cry on. At the suggestion of the authorities at the hospital, he drives her home. A few days later, Hank gives Leticia a ride home from the diner and after they begin talking in the car and discover the common loss of their sons and spouses, she invites him in and they drown their grief with alcohol. They begin a relationship initially based on sex and relief from loneliness but which later becomes emotionally supportive. Hank finds out that Leticia is Lawrence's widow, but he does not tell her that he participated in her husband's execution.
Leticia stops by Hank's home with a present for him. Hank is not home, but Buck is. Buck insults Leticia and implies that Hank is only involved with her because he wants to have sex with a black woman; she responds by rejecting Hank. This incident proves to be the last straw for Hank and he decides to send his father to a nursing home. Leticia is evicted from her home for non-payment of rent and Hank invites her to move in with him. She agrees and later discovers Hank's involvement in her husband's death while he is gone but is there waiting for him when he returns from town with ice cream. The film ends with them eating ice cream together on the front porch.
Monster's Ball is a 2001 American romantic drama film directed by Marc Forster and written by Milo Addica and Will Rokos. The film stars Billy Bob Thornton as a racist prison-guard, Halle Berry as a woman whose husband is on death row, and Heath Ledger as Thornton's son. Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.