It’s autumn and the parsonage is anticipating Charlotte’s visit. Charlotte, a celebrated pianist, has been touring concert halls and has not seen her daughters Eva and Helena in seven years. Helena is sick and mute, and Eva and her husband Viktor have lost their three-year-old son Erik. Charlotte is also bereaved: her partner Leonardo has died.
Charlotte arrives and immediately starts talking about her new clothes. Soon she finds out that Helena, whom she had put in a care home, now lives at the parsonage. Charlotte is left alone, with only her imaginary concert audience for company, to which she laments the uncomfortable situation. When Eva takes her to see Helena, Leonardo appears, too, and hints at something that happened while they were in Bornholm together. Charlotte doesn’t understand what Helena is trying to say. She is resolved to cut her visit short, and her admiring audience backs the decision.
In the evening Charlotte asks Eva to play the piano, but it’s obvious she doesn’t appreciate her daughter’s performance. The audience seems to be bored by it, too. The next day, Viktor tells Charlotte how the arrival of Erik changed their life. Then, just before his fourth birthday, Erik drowned. Why had God taken everything away? Charlotte doesn’t know what to say. Eva thinks Erik is still with her: thoughts and feelings can reach beyond death.
As Charlotte is getting ready for bed and takes her sedatives, a scream breaks the silence of the house. Eva hurries to calm down Helena and meets Charlotte. Their heated discussion brings repressed emotions to the surface. Eva can’t decide which was worse –Charlotte being away on tour or being at home. ”Mother and daughter, what a terrible combination of emotions,” Eva says.
Eva describes how she felt when her mother would always leave for her concert tours. Charlotte remembers the fear of losing her career. Helena screams again and Eva leaves to attend to her sister.
Charlotte tells her admiring audience she wasn’t prepared for such a conversation. Little by little, the conflict between mother and daughter unravels the secrets of the past: when Eva was pregnant at the age of 18, Charlotte pressured her to abort the unborn baby. “Can a daughter never break free from her mother”, Viktor wonders.
Helena begins to speak, recalling how one Easter in Bornholm, years ago, Leonardo kissed her and she felt at peace. Charlotte had then asked Leonardo to stay, as his presence was good for Helena. Now Eva, Viktor and Leonardo all blame Charlotte for Helena’s illness. Once left alone with her audience, Charlotte apologises for everything she has done wrong. She wants to change.
In the morning, Viktor tells Helena that Charlotte has gone. Helena starts to scream and. Eva regrets their argument and writes to Charlotte that she has wronged her. At the same time elsewhere, Charlotte speaks to her agent about the visit and asks why the sick Helena shouldn’t be allowed to die. “There’s an opportunity for us to take care of each other, I don’t think it’s too late,” Eva writes.