This film is all about letting go and moving on as part of 'healing' from trauma. A family has been traumatized by an accidental death. Young mother, father and little girl go out in the speedboat which crashes and Mom dies. Dad had been drinking. None of this is depicted at any point, but comes out gradually in the first half of the movie (so this is not a spoiler - but in general I ought to say 'SPOILER ALERT' right up front). Anyway, the family is really struggling with these wounds. Little girl has gone to be live with Grandpa (Mom's father) while her own Dad disappears into despair, his better intentions drowning in drink and drugs.
Meanwhile, in another town, a complete 'nobody,' an apparently orphaned girl has been living in the home of an elderly lady for whom she has cared for perhaps ten years. When the old lady dies, her pastor finds her a position caring for this orphaned girl in the story above. She takes the bus and moves in. 'Destroyed Dad' meets her when she arrives and when he returns to Chicago, he writes her a thank you note for taking on the job of caring for his daughter. She writes a reply and gives it to now-teenaged daughter and her friend to post for her. Of course, they open the letter and have a gas-attack of giggles over it and decide to have some fun 'replying' to this letter as if it's from Dad. The letter is never posted, but the 'correspondence' continues via email courtesy of the girls.
Over time, the 'cleaning lady' gets the idea that Dad really likes her and actually finds her attractive and beautiful. The two begin to hatch plans. 'Destroyed Dad' is trying to re-build his life in Chicago and has bought a derelict motel and Cleaning Lady decides to help him in his project. They plan it all via email. She invests her own saved money in the project and sets off for Chicago to move in with him, as per his invitation. When she learns the truth, she is humiliated. But in spite of that, she sets to work cleaning up his dive of a motel, just as she cleaned up the living arrangements at Grandpa's house earlier in the film.
What I particularly liked about this film is that it focuses on someone whose work and persona are not valued in our culture - the cleaning person. We'll spend big bucks to go to a seminar where we're told we must clean up our clutter, or that part of the Buddhist way is to purify our minds, bodies and environments. But what that translates to is spending a LOT of time sorting, scrubbing, dusting, dumping, and doing basically menial labor which no one values - and in the case of cleaning up our own clutter, no one pays for - not even minimum wage.
Nevertheless, this woman makes a huge difference to everyone whose life she touches. And it's not because of what she has to say - well, occasionally, but even then her speech is pretty much monosyllabic. She changes people's lives by changing their environment.
And, really, I do think there is such an important lesson for all of us there. Plus, I just liked her simple, focused, single-mindedness. She could be the poster-child for Buddhist teaching, but she's just a white-bread nobody kind of gal, running the vacuum-cleaner.
There are many little gems and jewels in this film - understated 'showings' of the truth of things. Truths that are missed when we're not paying attention, when we're so tangled up in our own negative feelings that somehow just keep on compiling. When the precious jewel that's inside each of us can't be seen because of all the grime that's encrusted it - but it's still there. Well, there's so much more that could be said about this little film.
For me, this is a spiritual artistry film. What it's showing is something spiritual, without being preachy or didactic in any way.