It seems impossible how a plot so simple, how the day to day experience of a young Vietnamese servant as she learns her work, observing the very ordinary uneventful life of the family she serves, can be so exquisitely beautiful.
But every second is a fresh wonder to savour and sense, but the wonders are everyday things and happenings.
I only found an explanation by reading another review, this is a film based on a Buddhist view of life, so we share with the servant Mui her living absolutely for the present moment, observing everything afresh, being enriched by her silent presence as the family are in the film. This is made possible by the combination of superb photography and minimal dialogue riveting our attention on Mui.
The Buddhist culture of the film explains why when Mui is grown up and working for a young musician he recognises Mui in a bust of Buddha.
Mui is played by two actresses, Man San Lu as a child of 10 and Tran Nu Yen-Khe age twenty, and fortunately both actresses are able to portray the extraordinary personality of Mui.
This master work is probably unique in the power of its simplicity.