NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by Naomiwho says... "I completely enjoyed this movie it felt very real, and seemed to freely admit to all lifes confusions.."
The movie starts off with the board of admissions at Princeton University opening up yet another application. One person reads the essay submitted, and thats when the movie begins to take off. The essay is written by Flors (Paz Vega) daughter, Cristina, who tells us that her greatest inspiration in life is her mother. She says that when she was very young, her father left her and her mother alone in Mexico. We then see mother and daughter eating a meal at the table. Cristina tells us that her mother did everything possible to not let her daughter see how upset she was about her father leaving. She would even step out of sight of her daughter so that she would not see her cry. While Cristina was very well aware of this, she would never let on.
One day (a few years later), Flor decides that it is time for the two of them to leave Mexico and enter the U.S. to live with her cousin, Monica. They travel there in coach class i.e. apparently illegally and settle down in L.A. with their relative. We find out that Flor is working hard to earn some money for her daughter and herself (despite knowing very little English). A few days/weeks later, Monica finds a new job for her cousin (because Flor decides she cant work two jobs she needs to spend more time keeping an eye on her daughter) as a housekeeper for a rich suburban family. They go together to this familys home for the interview.
Were now introduced to the Clasky family, whore sitting around the pool waiting for them. They gesture for Monica and Flor to join them. Flor is then introduced to Deborah Clasky (a rather neurotic, workaholic-type) who is no longer working, but is a stay-at-home mum, Evelyn (Deborahs mum, whos a bit of an alcoholic) and Deborah's two children Bernice and her brother, Georgie. Flor gets the job, for which she is paid a nice amount of money for.
She starts work the following day. We are then introduced to Adam Sandlers character John Clasky who seems to be every bit the patient father. When his son wakes up in the morning, we find out that his mother and he had an argument the day before, so he asks his father whether hes mad at him too. John says no. Deborah, on finding out about this, is furious. She insists that if John and she are to be happy with each other they have to agree on matters like this, instead of taking sides. She seems to grow increasingly irritates with his apparent calm and logic. He walks out sighing to himself and enters the kitchen where he meets Flor. He finds out she speaks no English when Deborah walks in, red-eyed, but trying not to show shes been crying. She insists on taking the kids to school while John heads off to work. Despite the language barrier, its obvious that Flor notices the rough patch this family is trying to work through.
We then see John Clasky at his restaurant, where he works as a chef. Apparently, a New York Times dining reviewer is eating at his restaurant at that very minute and John and his crew seem rather nervous. The next day, Bernice is studying for her finals: her father is quizzing her on American history. They are interrupted by Flor and Deborah who enter carrying lots of shopping bags. Theyve bought some clothes for Bernice. Bernices face lights up when she opens the bags and begins to try on the clothes. She struggles to put on the jacket and eventually takes it off because it doesnt fit. Her face falls when she sees that she size is too small. Her mother replies with a comment that doesnt help: Im sure youll manage to lose all that extra weight! Bernice starts to cry and says she needs a moment alone. She shuts the door behind her. Deborah doesnt seem to respect this need for space whilst John does they disagree again. Flor decides that this is a good time for her to go home, and John drops her off at the bus stop. On the way, he begins to cry and this is unusual to Flor who is more accustomed to seeing more masculine sides of men.
That night, Flor returns to the Clasky home and secretly mends Bernices clothes so that they fit. The following morning, she tells Bernice to try the clothes on again, and to Bernices joy they a perfect fit. Meanwhile, Deborah is trying to buy themselves a new summer house by the beach and goes with a realtor to choose a suitable property. On the way there, there is a hint of physical attraction between herself and the realtor, but no spoken words.
The next day, John receives the New York Times and nervously searches for the page with his restaurant review. It turns out to be excellent: with him named as the #1 chef in the United States. The entire family is happy for him, including Deborah, who kisses him before they ultimately make love in a most unusual fashion.
A few days later, Deborah, Evelyn and Flor start moving things to the new summer house. Deborah realizes that if they move here, Flor will probably have to stay with them for the upcoming three months and somehow persuades her and her daughter to come live there too. When Deborah is introduced to Cristina, she is stunned by the girls prettiness and comments on it in front of Bernice. The next scene is one with John Clasky, his two kids and Cristina (Flors daughter). Theyre sitting on the patio. John says that he will pay $10 for every large piece of sea glass that they find on the beach (he needs them for decorating something in his restaurant). Bernice and Georgie dont devote much time to this task. Cristina, however, collects glass way into the night.
The following morning, Deborah invites Cristina to go shopping with her, leaving a note for Flor, saying that shes stealing her daughter for a while. When Flor gets the message she is both furious and worried. When Cristina and Deborah return, Flor instructs Cristina to translate a written message from Flor to Deborah. The message basically tells Deborah to not do anything with Cristina without her consent.
That same day, Cristina presents John with a bucket-full of sea glass telling him that he owes her $650 for it all. That night, he puts the money into an envelope and leaves it for her on the table (he also sees a note from his wife saying that shell be late in coming home). Cristina takes the money and counts it in her room. On seeing this, Flor is furious again. She accuses John of the same mistake Deborah made interfering in someone elses business. He apologizes and then changes his mind calling her hypocritical. He accuses her of doing the same for his daughter, Bernice mending her clothes so that they fit. Surprisingly, Flor admits that she made a mistake, and they apologize to each other.
That night Deborah is all dressed-up, explaining to her mother in a rather flustered manner that she needs to go to some thing (shes apparently having an affair with the real estate man). The next day, Deborah decides that it would be great if she could get Cristina a scholarship to the same private school that Bernice is attending. Once again, tensions run high between her and Flor when news of this springs up. Flor is torn between the thought of providing the best for her daughter while still maintaining her identity. She goes downstairs with John onto the beach to discuss this with him. They both seem to have one important thing in common the love for their children. We also find out that John seems to be attracted to Flor, but nothing happens. Flor relents deciding to let her daughter go to the new private school.
Flor decides to learn English, buying some expensive video and audio tapes which she watches and listens to every spare minute. That night, burdened with troubles at home with his wife, John returns drunk and almost kisses Flor. He restrains himself and tells her goodnight. Meanwhile, Cristina is fitting in well with the other kids at school, and even is allowed to invite them over (courtesy of Deborah) to the Claskys home for a slumber party. That same night, Flor is throwing a party with her Mexican friends and family to celebrate Cristinas scholarship. Deborah calls her and informs Flor that the girls need to get some work done (while in reality, theyre watching a movie together). This is the last straw for Flor, who leaves the party upset, with every intention of walking into the Clasky home to bring her daughter back.
Meanwhile, Deborah walks out of the house and asks Evelyn (her mother) to watch the kids while shes out. Evelyn stops her daughter from driving away and gives her a serious speech. Evelyn tells her that the way shes carrying on (Evelyn is aware of the affair), she is driving away her husband who is one of the most decent men on the planet. Deborah gets convinced and goes back inside the house. John returns from work and hears his wife crying upstairs. He rushes up, concerned, and Deborah tells him everything. Stunned and hurt, he goes downstairs. Flor is also in the house and is convinced by Evelyn that now is not a good time to take Cristina home. John, still distraught, is informed by Flor that she is leaving the following day for good. He offers to take her to the bus stop, and on the way, he asks her if shed like to hang out with him.
They go to his restaurant where he tells her that hes going to cook for her. She accepts and they have a lovely conversation despite the circumstances while he cooks. They both agree not to drink any wine, so that reality will remain with them. But later on, they do end up kissing. Back at the house, Deborah is worried and upset; she has seen John drive off with Flor. Evelyn is trying to comfort her in her own unique way. We cut back to John and Flor who sitting next to each other on a small sofa talking about how confusing life is. They do not want to go back to reality but agree that each of them have certain responsibilities. Their feet do not touch the floor to do so would be a sort of a metaphor in which reality would be allowed to engulf them. Then Flor turns to John, tells him she loves him, and touches the floor, and walks out of the restaurant.
John returns home emotionally drained. He is greeted by his wife on the stairs, who tells him that shes glad to see him come back (Evelyn told her to say this). He tells her okay and goes to sleep in a different room. His daughter comes in to see him, concerned because she heard her mother crying. They exchange a few meaningful words and hug before saying goodnight.
The next day, Flor stops by to come collect her daughter and inform the Claskys that shes leaving. There are some tears as both families are parted. While Cristina is saying goodbye to Deborah, Flor walks out the gate to encounter John. They hug, but do not kiss. Both are very sad. Cristina arrives and says goodbye to John, and Flor and Cristina walk to the bus stop. On the way there, Flor informs Cristina that she will no longer be going to the private school. Cristina is now extremely upset, telling her mother what an outrageous act this is. Flor remains surprisingly calm. At the bus stop, Cristina doesnt speak to her mother, telling her that she needs some space. Flor becomes angry and storms up to her daughter, saying: No space between us! And then she asks Cristina whether the school is more important to her than becoming like her mother. Cristina doesnt answer.
They both get on the bus and sit separate from each other. A few minutes later, Cristina moves next to her mother and gives her a smile, which is returned. The pair hug. The movie ends with Cristina telling the college admissions board that while it would thrill her to be accepted, it wouldnt define her, because in the end, she is her mothers daughter.
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