William Blake( Johnny Depp) has nothing to look forward to in his home town. He is unemployed. His parents are dead. His lover has left him. He has only enough savings to pay for his fare to the machine town where he has been promised a job as an accountant. But when he arrives there he finds that the position has already been filled by some one else.
He has no money and has no means, in foreseeable future, of making any money. But this does not embitter him. He is at heart a good man. And being a good man he walks a lady , who has been kicked out of the bar, to her home. She sells paper flowers. One thing leads to another and the two end up sleeping together. Things turn nasty when her lover comes at her door step and finds her with another man. He shoots at William but the girl comes in line of fire and gets killed instead. The bullet penetrates Williams' chest but it does not kill him. William then fires several rounds at him. But only one connects and the man is dead. It is clear that William does not know how to shoot. And it is possible that this was the first time that he ever held a gun. He then jumps out of the window and escapes on a horse.
It turns out that the man William killed was the son of the same man from whom he sought employment. He was a rich and powerful man. Enraged by the death of his son he hires three bounty hunters to bring William to him dead or alive.
William meanwhile on the verge of his death meets nobody (played to perfection by Gary Farmer). Nobody is an Indian. There is an interesting side story to why he calls himself that, but I will leave it out. When he learns that the name of the wounded man is William Blake he is filled with admiration for him. In his childhood nobody had an opportunity study the works of the famous poet William Blake and he thinks that the man he just helped is that poet. He often repeats his favorite lines from one of Blake's poems
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
Though Johnny's character does not have the slightest idea of what nobody is talking about for he has never read any of Blake's poems. The two continue their journey together. William is trying to get away as far from machine town as possible and nobody is ... well he is just travelling.
The relationship between William and nobody is quite interesting. Nobody being an Indian is not fond of white men. Initially he mocks William openly calling him "stupid white man". But later mistaking him for the poet William Blake, whose words he admired since his childhood, he gets closer to him. William on the other hand fails to grasp the symbolic meaning of nobody's words but slowly starts to see the light and nobody becomes more than just a companion to him. He becomes a friend.
Their scenes together are comical at times. Nobody keeps asking William for tobacco. But he has none since he does not smoke. Nobody is strangely fascinated by Williams spectacles. Both William and nobody try to know each other throughout their journey. Both of them are different. They are both strange to each other and in their course never they understand each other completely. Though they develop a mutual respect. William becomes as fascinated by nobody as nobody was with him.
In addition to the hired guns William's employer also puts a bounty on his head. Now all kinds of men are tying to kill him.
He adapts exceedingly well. From a man who could barely shoot a someone right in front of him he transforms into a gunslinger. Taking down white men left and right much to the delight of nobody.
Over the time Williams wounds worsen. He looses a lot of blood and gains a few more bullets in his body. Without treatment he would die. But nobody can not treat him. He prepares him for his death instead.
As the film draws to it's conclusion William is introduced to nobody's tribe. He is at first rejected by their chieftains, being a white man. But when nobody recounts to them William's feats they are impressed. They want to honor the him for killing so many white men. But he does not have long to live so they give him a final farewell.
In the last scenes of the film William is in a boat. Adorned in the finest Indian clothes. He is holding on to his last remaining breaths. But he is neither afraid nor restless. He is looking forward to his final journey. He asks nobody if he would like to have some tobacco, for the first time producing a real strip that he picked up along the way. Nobody refuses and pushes him into the water.