1931, French Indochina: A French widow and her two children eke out a living from rice fields located perilously close to the ocean. Every year, their fields are flooded with sea water and their crops are destroyed. Their only hope seems to be the construction of a seawall. The mother refuses to give up, battling both nature and the local colonial bureaucrats. Her 20-year-old son, an angry young man, is equally determined, but it is the teenaged daughter Suzanne who proves to be most stubborn. One day, her willowy beauty catches the attention of a rich, well-dressed Chinese man. As Monsieur Jo's interest in Suzanne verges toward obsession, her mother and brother find themselves in a quandary: Monsieur Jo could provide the financial security they need, but he is Chinese, and racial prejudice is a fact of life in their society.