1938. Madame Wu (Luo Yan) has just turned 40 years old and has grown weary of her husband's dominance. Now that her children are grown up, she yearns to expand her intellectual horizons - so, in violation of traditional custom, she arranges for a young peasant girl to be brought into the household as Lord Wu's concubine. Madame Wu relishes her new-found freedom and begins taking lessons with her son, learning English from a kind American missionary, Brother Andre (Willem Dafoe). She soon finds herself falling for the compassionate stranger, as circumstances cause both her household and China itself to explode into chaos.
The film features some fantastic shots of the Chinese countryside, moving insights into the culture in pre-war China and a fair amount of action towards the end, as the Japanese invade. Well acted, although a couple of the action sections weren't that convincing.