The interior life of a Vietnamese household in the 1950s, as seen through the eyes of a young servant girl, is explored in Tran Anh Hung's placid, but visually intoxicating tone poem, L'Odeur de la Papaye Verte. The film begins in 1951, when the beautiful and inquisitive 10-year-old peasant girl Mui (Lu Man San) is hired to work at the home of an affluent Saigon family. When the father absconds with the family's money, the tireless mother (Truong Thi Loc) is forced to support the family through the slim profits of her tiny fabric store. As the family struggles to make ends meet, Mui becomes attracted to a friend of the family, Khuyen (Vuong Hoa Hoi). The film then shifts to 1961, when the family is in desperate straits. The father has died, and Mui (Tran Nu Yen-Khe), now twenty years old, finds herself working in Khuyen's home. Khuyun has grown into an attractive, sophisticated French-speaking pianist, with his own expensive mistress. Mui serves him as she has served the family -- with perfection and silence. She also loves Khuyen is silence, and gradually Khuyen begins to take notice of Mui's love for him.
by Paul Brenner synopsis