Alternating in time, between the end of World War II and 1953, Haruko, a widow, does what she can to keep her daughter Utako and son Seiichi safe, fed, and sheltered. By 1953, it's clear that the children, as they enter adulthood, want little to do with their mother. They have a different view of their childhood and her sacrifices: in their eyes, she abandoned them to live a life of pleasure. The self-pitying Haruko is sure her life was one of pain and humiliation, for her children. As Seiichi, now a medical student, announces his plans to let a wealthy man adopt him, and as Utako considers the offer to go away with a married man who is her English teacher, what is left for Haruko?