Dora is a former school teacher who makes a living by writing letters for illiterate people passing through Rio de Janeiro's main train station, Central Station. Among her clients are Ana and her nine-year-old son Josue, who has a fierce desire to meet his father, whom he has never seen. Dora has become stoically indifferent to her charge, choosing arbitrarily to send some letters and discard others with the help of her neighbor Irene. A sudden accident leaves Josue orphaned at the station and this is when Dora's life begins to change dramatically. Swayed by a curiously maternal compassion, Dora commits to returning Josue to his father in Brazil's remote Northeast.