Mao Dabing, an easygoing film buff, works delivering water bottles in Beijing. One day after he accidentally crashes his bike in an alley, he's suddenly brained with a brick by a disturbed young woman, Ling-ling. Arrested by the police, Ling-ling remains silent, but she gives Dabing the key to her apartment, asking him to feed the fish. Her place turns out to be a shrine to the movies, and especially to one star, legendary '30s singer-actress Zhou Xuan. As Dabing reads Ling-ling's private diary, the film flashes back to Ningxia province in the early '70s and the story of Ling-ling's mom, Jiang Xuehua.