The entire movie is told in the form of a college application essay. Narrator Cristina Moreno (Shelbie Bruce), asked to name the most influential person in her life, cites her mother, Flor (Paz Vega) and goes on to tell the story of the crucial few months when Flor, a Mexican immigrant who spoke no English, went to work as a maid for the well-to-do, extremely dysfunctional Clasky family in Los Angeles. The Claskys take to the then–pre-teen Cristina immediately, even going so far as to enroll her in the same private school their daughter attends. Flor is ambivalent, however, and not just because she doesn’t want Cristina to become like the unhappy Clasky women, who range from merely neurotic and insecure to self-absorbed and monstrous.
Flor has also resisted assimilating into Anglo culture, not even bothering to learn English until she decides it’s improper to keep having little Cristina translate her adult conversations with the Claskys. She seems to have imparted that ambivalence to her daughter, who’s nothing but proud of her mother’s insistence on holding on to her cultural roots, even at the expense of her own education. As she puts it, in the conclusion of her essay, “Your acceptance, while it would thrill me, will not define me. My identity rests firmly and happily on one fact: I am my mother’s daughter.”