NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by SarahEllenC
Flashback: Billy is casually filming Christina and is asking her questions. She is uncomfortable with it. We find out she is new to New York; she is from Louisiana. She is a mother and sadly says she wishes she was as good with love as she is with working.
Present Day: Michael is a NYC reporter driving around quaint roadsides in Louisiana and stops to snap some pics along the way as he visits Isaac, a scheduled interview about his life post-hurricane Katrina, etc. Isaac offers Michael boiled crab as a welcoming gesture. As they get to know each other, Michael takes an interest in Isaac’s display of framed photographs on his mantle. He notices a particular one of a beautiful girl and asks Isaac about her. Isaac’s response is short and melancholy, and he gives Michael her name, Christina, and a little backstory on her.
Mae, a well-dressed, poised woman, enters a NY bank and looks through a safe deposit box. In it, among all sorts of papers and pictures, is the same exact photograph (unframed) of the beautiful girl as on Isaac’s mantle.
Also in the safe deposit box, we see a letter, handwritten in feminine script. The letter begins, “My Mae,” and reads she’s had an exhausting, painful fight with cancer in the first sentence.
Michael is back at work in his NY office. Andy, his friend (an intern), is happy at Michael’s return and is complaining that their boss is not giving him anything to write. Michael asks him to track down Christina for him.
Michael and Mae meet.
Still working on his story about Isaac, Michael asks her if she knows Isaac. She discloses she is only slightly familiar with him, having only met him once. Michael is very interested in Christina and asks about her. Mae tells Michael her mother died very recently and that Christina had not told Mae that she was even sick. We now realize her mother penned the letter in the safe deposit box. The conversation eventually gets personal.
Both admit their single status to each other. She says she broke it off when her last boyfriend proposed. He lets her know he is currently unattached. He is interested in her, and they leave this meeting with the agreement that she is to reach out to him for further contact.
Michael listens to his tape-recorded interview with Isaac. Mae reads her mother’s letter.
Flashback: We see young Isaac and Christina, so in love, holding hands, carrying on, she takes many pictures of him. She has converted a shed in her backyard into a dark room for developing photographs. We see her develop the pictures of him. One night, Christina tells him she wants to go to New Orleans. He doesn’t love the idea, but he, for her, is willing to take her. After their date, Christina goes home and is coldly greeted by her mother. Her mother harshly criticizes Christina’s choice of a boyfriend. She clearly dislikes him for her. Despite this upsetting exchange, her mother softly kisses Christina on her cheek goodnight.
Present Day: Mae sits at a park bench with Louis, her mother’s significant other. They are both melancholy, and she shares with him what she’s been reading in her mother’s letter. We find out that Christina was a distant mother, and Mae felt abandoned by her.
Mae is sad and says that she hopes she will not end up like her mother.
Michael and Andy conspire to go to a French film screening at the Queens (NY) Museum, where Mae is the curator, and Michael is sure to run into her. As Michael and Andy enter, Michael and Mae lock eyes across a crowded room and begin to move toward each other, but Mae is interrupted by museum patrons, so their interaction is delayed until after the film screening. Mae and friend, Rachel, girlishly chat about Michael and Andy. Rachel agrees to take Andy with her to allow Mae and Michael to talk alone. Mae flirts as she brings up that she was to contact him next. Michael asks her to go out for a drink. Over drinks, they admit they are both bad at first dates. They tease each other over being Drake and/or Kendrick Lamar fans. Michael asks if it is too early to kiss her. They kiss in the restaurant booth.
The next day, during girl talk between Mae and Rachel, we find out, after this drink date, Michael called her right away and called Mae special.
Flashback: Christina is dressed up and tells her mother she is going to New Orleans on an overnight double date with Isaac and two other friends.
Her mother is again critical of Isaac, not good enough, doesn’t make enough. Her mother also criticizes Christina’s interest in photography – that it doesn’t pay, and she needs a decent income. Lastly, her mother tells her that she should look for somewhere else to live, and she will need to move out. Tearfully shaken, Christina goes off to New Orleans as planned. The foursome goes to a jazz club and soak in the ambiance. Isaac proposed to Christina. She tells him lovingly that she is not ready. He understands and is very good-natured about her answer. Eventually, they go back to their hotel room and have a sweet night together.
Christina wakes up the next day pensively, reminded of the changes that await her when she returns to her mother’s house.
Present Day: Michael goes over to his brother’s (Kyle’s) house.
We meet Kyle and his wife and his two adorable young daughters. They are all very close. Michael tells Kyle that he had a great promising interview with Associated Press in London, and he is excited about it. Michael says he wanted a change now that his relationship (with Tessa) is over.
Mae texts Michael at work, and he drops everything and responds immediately by leaving to meet her at her work. We find out Andy is dating Rachel now. Meanwhile, a hurricane is headed to hit the city, and Mae is in an evacuation zone.
They meet at the museum to pick up a few things and then go to her beautiful, modern, artful apartment.
While having cocktails and putting on some vinyl on her turntable, Mae asks Michael if he’s ever cheated on anyone before. He says no and then tells a story of how he dated a married woman when she was in her 40s, and he was in his 20s. The power goes out due to the storm, and they give in to their powerful attraction to each other.
Later on, when the weather lightens up a little bit, they go to Michael’s brother’s (Kyle) family’s home.
Kyle and his wife and two small daughters (Sophia and Sandrine) are delighted to meet Mae. After a while, Mae goes into the living room and chats with Sophia and Sandrine. Meanwhile, Michael and Kyle are alone and can talk privately. Kyle says he can tell Michael is in love. Kyle just can’t believe it’s so soon after Tessa. The young girls tell Mae that she looks like Tessa.
Naturally curious, Mae asks about Tessa.
The girls say that Michael was going to marry Tessa. When Mae’s questions get more detailed, the girls shyly get quiet, and the subject is dropped.
Michael and Mae stay the night at Kyle’s home as the storm continues and is not letting up. Mae wakes up restlessly and begins to continue reading her mother’s letter.
Flashback: Isaac and Christina are living together. He returns home from work to find her annoyed and restless for a fuller life. She wants more than this quiet, humdrum, daily boredom. He takes her camera and uncharacteristically takes a picture of her, for once. She tells him she wants to move to New York.
He lovingly tells her that he can’t do that. Later, in her darkroom, she develops the picture of herself and looks at herself in it. We then see her leaving on a bus in the middle of night bound for New York City.
Present Day: Michael wakes up and interrupts Mae’s reading the letter. The storm is over, and they take a walk outside on the quiet, dark street.
Mae asks him about Tessa. He tells her they broke up before he met her (Mae). He then asks Mae, “what about you?” “Nobody,” she replies. “Nobody anymore.” He tells her about the job interview in London. He tells her he needed a change and that he still wants very much to know her more.
Flashback: Christina is interviewing to be a professional photographer’s assistant. She tells the photographer that she will work harder than anyone else and that the other applicants are only working until they get married. She gets the job and calls Denise in Louisiana (her girlfriend she double-dated within New Orleans months earlier) to tell her the good news.
Denise tells Christina that her mother has died. At the funeral, Christina realizes that her mother must have sent her away because she knew she was dying. Isaac does not attend the funeral. Christina says that he must be still mad at her for leaving. Denise tells her that he is married. We find out then that Christina has been gone for three months, and she is surprised and hurt to hear of how soon he married someone else.
Curiously, she drives by his home and sees Isaac walking with his new wife. Later, back in New York, we see a very young Mae and her single mother, Christina, and realize that Isaac is her father and that she had been pregnant at the time of her mother’s funeral. Later still, we see Christina and Mae back in small-town Louisiana. Christina goes to meet Isaac and introduces Mae to him. At this point, it’s been four years since they’ve seen each other. He asks her to come to his home for dinner. She declines and says they need to catch a bus back to NY. He offers to drive them to the station, saying that the last time she left on a bus for NY, he didn’t get a chance to drive her. At the bus station, he offers to walk them inside.
She doesn’t want him to get out of the truck and instead kisses him tenderly on the cheek.
Present Day: Mae completes her mother’s letter and realizes the whole picture of her past and her parents. There is a sealed envelope from the safe deposit box with instructions from her mother to deliver this letter to Isaac. She flies to Louisiana and knocks on Isaac’s door, announcing that she is Christina’s daughter and that Christina passed away a month ago.
Mae gives her mother’s letter to him.
Mae tells him she, too, had a letter from Christina. In it, she tells him, Christina reveals that Isaac is her father. Isaac nods knowingly. He says that when he met her (Mae) long ago that he was too afraid to know the truth, so he didn’t ask. He offers her some boiled crab. She accepts.
Mae calls Michael from Louisiana, but he doesn’t pick up.
Michael gets the new job in London and tells his brother over beers at a bar. His plans are to go back to Louisiana to tie up loose ends for his writing piece/interview with Isaac and then to return to New York to pack up and leave.
In Louisiana, Michael drives up to Isaac’s house for work and is surprised to see Mae coming out of the home. Mae says she tried to call him to tell him she was there. She then encourages him to go to Christina’s house for further research. They end up checking out the darkroom where they look around and feel the energy of its history and then share a kiss.
Later that day, holding hands, they walk around New Orleans. They coincidentally walk up into the same jazz club Isaac and Christina had gone to many years ago. They have champagne and slow dance and are all caught up in the joy of the moment.
When Mae says they need to do this again, Michael tells her that he got the job in London and is moving there but still wants to keep their connection going. She says long-distance relationships don’t work and that they should just try to enjoy what’s here now.
After Michael leaves for NY, Mae stays with Isaac in Louisiana a little while longer. “What did the letter say?” Mae asks Isaac. In it, Christina apologized for keeping the news of his paternity away from him. Mae tells Isaac in her letter, Christina says that she loved her by being a good provider and that she wishes she could have loved more or other ways.
Back in NY, Mae and Rachel are catching up. Rachel admits she and Andy are a real couple. Mae admits what she wanted to tell Michael back in New Orleans when he told her he was moving to London, and that is she wanted him to stay.
Michael’s workplace throws him a going away party. Andy gets a promotion to an employee after the suggestion of Michael to his boss.
Mae prepares her mother’s photographs for a showing at the museum. She finds the videotaped interview of Christina from the opening scene and decides to add it as part of the showing to play on multiple televisions as an art installation.
In London, Michael glumly works at his new desk and opens up a mailed envelope. In it, he finds a ticket to see Kendrick Lamar at a local venue and a handwritten note from Mae. He smiles delightedly. They meet outside of the concert hall and warmly greet each other. Mae admits what she wanted to say to him when he announced he was leaving and that she’s not comfortable needing anyone. She goes on to say that she doesn’t care where they live or how they set it up as long as they can return to this connection.
He interrupts her with a loving kiss.