Dora (Montenegro) is a retired schoolteacher eking out an existence by writing letters for illiterate passers-by in Rio's busiest railway station. She never bothers posting the letters. Josue (De Oliveira) is the nine-year-old son of one of the women she deceives. When his mother is killed, Josue is left alone in the big city. Dora takes pity on the boy and reluctantly joins him on an epic cross-country journey in search of his father. Part travelogue, part neo-realist fable, the film works so well because the director refuses to play up the sentimentality. Both the boy and the older woman are hardened and cynical. Only very slowly does their mutual distrust break down.