Wu is in her mid-twenties and lives with her mother in a worn, traditional house in an old alley in Beijing. They both consider themselves writers, but success has so far eluded them. Wu is supported by a divorced, elderly man who helps these women through difficult times. The unhealthily close relationship between Wu and her mother is characterized by reproach and quibbling; only during meals do they appear to lay down their verbal weapons. The situation escalates when both Wu and her mother hit an emotional low.