This Vietnamese film is a remarkable piece of film-making. A delight for the senses, there is very little dialogue in this movie and aptly so given that the movements, sounds, facial expressions, etc. are the dominant features of the film. The story's central character is Mui, a ten-year-old girl who has moved to Saigon to work as a house maid. Mui is treated well by the mistress of the house, a woman who is still grieving the loss of her young daughter seven years ago. The fact that Mui is the age her daughter would have been had she lived makes the mistress look kindly upon Mui.
Mui soon learns her way about the household (father, mother, and two sons) under the guidance of an older maid who is also the cook. She learns that the master and mistress are not close to each other, and that the master has occasionally run off with the wife's savings to fool around with other women.
The movie's charms lie mainly in Mui's portrayal of interest in her surroundings - watching an ant heave a piece of burnt bread; hearing birds sing; frogs croaking, etc. Viewers also get to see Mui's emotional growth from a naïve young child into a beautiful young woman, who eventually leaves her old household to find her livelihood in another household, where a relationship develops between Mui and her new master. This is a leisurely-paced movie that allows viewers to luxuriate in every little detail, sights, and sounds without being bombarded by non-stop dialogue or too many characters. A true cinematic gem.