NEW YORK, NY.- Madrid 1922. A city wavering on the edge of change as traditional values are challenged by the dangerous new influences of jazz, Freud and the avant-garde. Salvador Dalí arrives at university at the age of 18, determined to become a great artist. His bizarre blend of shyness and rampant exhibitionism attracts the attention of two of the universitys social elite Federico García Lorca and Luis Buñuel.
Salvador is absorbed into their decadent group and for a time Salvador, Luis and Federico become a formidable trio, the most ultra-modern group in Madrid. However, as time passes, Salvador feels an increasingly strong pull toward the charismatic Federico who is oblivious to the attention he is getting from his beautiful writer friend, Magdalena. Finally, in the face of his friends preoccupations and Federicos growing renown as a poet Luis sets off for Paris in search of his own artistic success.
Federico and Salvador spend the holiday in the seaside town of Cadaqués. Both the idyllic surroundings and the warmth of the Dalí family sweep Federico off his feet. Salvador and he draw closer, sharing their deepest beliefs, inspirations and secrets, convinced that they have found a kind of friendship undreamt of by others. It is more than a meeting of the minds; it is a fusion of souls. And then one night, in the phosphorescent water, it becomes something else.
A seemingly innocent kiss throws Federico and Salvador into the realms of the taboo. In the world of Spanish Catholicism, homosexuality is an affront against God and man. On their return to Madrid the two embark on an unspoken, secret relationship. When Luis visits, he is appalled to realize that Federico is apparently in love with Salvador. He leaves the city in shock rather than confronting his one-time friend.
Salvador visits Luis in Paris and returns determined to separate himself from both Federico and Madrid Luis has convinced him that both are proving detrimental to his career. Federico, increasingly fearful of his emotions, now becomes terrified of the thought of losing Salvador. One fateful afternoon the situation escalates as, frustrated and manipulated, Federico has sex with Magdalena while Salvador watches. The episode leaves Federico distraught as Salvador becomes colder than ever, leaving for Paris.
Alone in Madrid, Federico struggles against his psyche, tortured by the damning implications of his own religious beliefs and the undeniable voice of his flesh. He is haunted by news of Salvador, who is collaborating on a Surrealist film with Luis and has embarked on an affair with a married woman Gala. Finally, Magdalena forces Federico come to terms with his sexuality and carry on with his life.
By 1936, while Spain is teetering on the precipice of civil war, Federico, now a highly acclaimed and controversial playwright, receives an invitation to dinner from Salvador and Gala. But the hosts have a rather unusual agenda and the evening is a disaster. A week later, Salvador is hosting a party when he discovers that Federico has been assassinated in the outbreak of war. The walls of self-denial that surround the artist come crashing down as he realizes, too late, the depth of his love for Federico.