Bun-liong is a gentle, quiet young man whose only desire in life is to play his music. The movie alternates between scenes of his life traveling with a Taiwanese opera troupe and of each of his troubled visits to the village of his childhood by the Sand River.
The story weaves a complex tapestry of a tragic life beginning in a destitute family and culminating in a failed marriage and the heartbreak of unrequited love.
And through it all is his music, first the trumpet, then the saxophone, then the sad strains of the clarinet, filtering through the Sand River dusk, telling of a life of wanderlust and dreams unfulfilled.
This film is rich with the atmosphere of Taiwan in the post-Japanese occupation years and includes many scenes of traditional Taiwan ge zai opera. It is adapted from the acclaimed Taiwanese author Chi Teng Sheng’s 1976 novel Lament of the Sand River, which is based on the real-life experiences of the author’s older brother.