Tangshan, 1976. Two seven-year-old twin children are buried under the rubble of the devastating earthquake. The rescue team explains to their mother, Li Yuanni, that freeing either child will almost certainly result in the death of the other. Forced to make the most difficult decision of her life, she finally chooses to save her son Fang Da, the male twin. Li Yuanni has no idea that her decision is overheard by her daughter Fang Deng, the female twin. Although she has been left behind as dead, the little girl miraculously survives for several more days before being pulled clear by another rescue team who believe that she is simply a corpse. She wakes up in the pouring rain next to the dead body of her father. Suffering from the emotional shocks of the disaster and the painful memory of her mother's choice, Fang Deng refuses to reveal her identity. She is adopted by a middle-aged Chinese couple and years later moves to Canada to marry. Shadowed by the traumatic experiences of the earthquake and devastated by her mother's decision to abandon her, she continues to be emotionally withdrawn throughout her adult years. Sichuan, 2008. 32 years later, when the Sichuan earthquake takes more lives, Fang Deng returns to China as a volunteer with a rescue team. The process of witnessing other people's suffering at the time of a natural disaster helps her to overcome her own trauma and forgive her mother. She finally reunites with her family after 32 years apart.