A scientist named Stuart (Liev Schreiber) discovers a time portal that takes him back to 1876. During his visit to the past, he takes a number of photographs and accidentally brings back Leopold (Hugh Jackman) - his great great grandfather and the inventor of the elevator.
Back in the present, Stuart has one week to send Leopold back to 1876. Problems arise, however, when Stuart is taken to an asylum when no one believes his story. Meanwhile, Leopold is introduced to Kate (Meg Ryan), Stuart's ex-girlfriend, and the two become romantically involved.