NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy.
During the Great Depression in North Carolina, George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) manages a lumber business. It's not turning in much of a profit, and he has trouble acquiring loans from the bank. On the job, a worker is almost killed when he gets trapped on the train tracks and the train nearly collides with him until George jumps onboard and stops the train quickly.
George visits his sister Agatha (Charity Wakefield) at an equestrian field. There, his eye is caught by a young woman riding a horse. Her name is Serena Shaw (Jennifer Lawrence). Agatha tells George that Serena comes from Colorado where her family was lost to a fire. The authorities apparently found her days later, still covered in ash while calling out for her family. George rides after her into the woods to introduce himself. He is quick to declare that they ought to be married.
After the two are wed, George brings Serena back home. There, she sees a woman named Rachel (Ana Ularu) that George previously slept with, and she is carrying his child. Serena disregards this and says anything that happened before they fell in love does not exist.
Serena is brought into George's business among the other men. When one man is bitten by a rattlesnake, Serena suggests that they find and tame an eagle to help with the snakes. She also meets George's associates, Buchanan (David Dencik) and Galloway (Rhys Ifans), the latter whom is said to have served prison time for manslaughter, though he insists that man "had it coming".
The men in town, led by Sheriff McDowell (Toby Jones), argue that George's business is doing more harm than good to the trees. George counters that he has provided men with jobs and is using the logs for good business.
The workers bring in an eagle that was shipped to them. Serena spends time alone with it so that everyone will acknowledge that a woman tamed the eagle. Later, she informs George that she is carrying his child.
It is learned that George has been accepting bribes and has sold off a piece of land he had in Brazil to maintain his business. Buchanan threatens to expose George's practices. The two go hunting for sport, when George aims his rifle at a shocked Buchanan. He lets it down, only for Buchanan to raise his in retaliation. George shoots Buchanan in the heart, killing him.
On the job, Galloway slips against a tree, and his hand is accidentally chopped off by an axe. A very pregnant Serena rushes to his aid and creates a tourniquet for him.
Serena starts to experience pains that the doctor says is not attributed to labor, but she doesn't believe it's merely a stomachache. She later starts to bleed out, and George rushes her to get medical attention. He stays by her side the whole time. Serena loses her baby, and she is told that she can never have a child. When they return home, Serena orders George to destroy the crib they built for the child. At night, Galloway comes to the house to tell George that Galloway's mother prophesied that he would lose something, only to be saved by a woman. He says he is indebted to Serena.
Serena acts unwell following her miscarriage. She attends a party with George, only to get drunk and end up sleeping with another man.
Another worker of George's, Campbell (Sean Harris), is given the ledgers to expose George. Meanwhile, Serena comes across a photo album in George's desk to see that he has a picture of Rachel and their year-old son Jacob. Serena feels angry and deceived. She enlists Galloway's assistance to take care of some dirty business.
Rachel and Jacob taken to the home of an elderly woman for protection, but the woman is found murdered with her throat slashed. McDowell sees George over this matter, also stating that Campbell was found killed in the same manner. George confronts Serena, who more or less implies that she has something to do with whatever is coming to Rachel and Jacob. She wants George to accept that the boy means nothing to him, or else he can kill her. George almost chokes Serena to death in front of various onlookers, but he lets her go. He goes to McDowell with his ledgers and agrees to turn himself in if he can help him find Rachel.
Rachel takes Jacob to head on a train to Washington. With little time left, she hides in a boxcar as Galloway finds her and Jacob. George hops the boxcar and fights Galloway, eventually cutting his throat with his own razor. The following morning, George holds Jacob lovingly until he must bid him and Rachel goodbye.
McDowell orders his men to find George, who is said to be hunting. We see George in the woods attempting to stalk what appears to be a puma. George shoots at it, and the creature lunges at him moments later. McDowell and his men find George lying dead next to the puma's body.
George's body is brought to Serena for identification. As she lays in bed at night, wracked with guilt, Serena takes a lighter and sets her home on fire, with her still lying in bed as the flames consume everything.