Regis Wargnier's epic about French Indochina -- from the years of French colonial imperialism to the days when American presence made itself felt and the country became known as Vietnam -- is a story of romance and separation told through the backdrop of a country in turmoil. The film centers on the relationship of the beautiful and imperious Eliane (Catherine Deneuve), a French rubber-plantation owner, and Camille (Linh Dan Pham), her adopted Indochinese daughter. The mother and daughter are very close until a diffident naval officer, Jean-Baptiste (Vincent Perez) enters their lives. Eliane is in love with him, but Jean-Baptiste and Camille become attracted to each other and fall in love. Thinking that she is doing Camille a favor, Eliane arranges to have Jean-Baptiste transferred to the far-away Tonkin Islands. But Camille flees the plantation to go to the man she loves. As she travels the country, she gains a greater knowledge and respect for the people of her homeland. When the government tears her from Jean-Baptiste and their infant child and arrests her for crimes against the state, she becomes politicized and becomes a supporter of the communists in the country's civil war. As the country rocks in turmoil, Eliane becomes a personification of France, coolly walking amid her peasant workers, neither bowed nor afraid, grimly looking westward.
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