A grieving peasant still mourning the death of her husband and young son opens a school in the remote and barren landscape of northwest China in director Yang Yazhou's stark but affecting drama. When Zhang Meili lost her family, she also lost her purpose in life. Now determined not to fall victim to her sorrow, Zhang decides to leave her bad memories behind and start life anew by giving back to the community. Xia Yu is an unhappy housewife from Beijing who longs to make a difference, too. After abandoning her husband to assist Zhang Meili in her noble efforts, the pair soon form a close-knit bond and Xia Yu learns just how rewarding the life of a teacher can be. The situation grows complicated, however, when Xia Yu's husband arrives imploring his wife to return home, and Zhang Meili becomes involved in a clandestine relationship with a local projectionist.