In the first sequence, Han Sanming, a middle-aged coal miner from Jia's home Shanxi province, arrives on a ferry to look for his ex-wife, Missy after sixteen years of estrangement. All he has to rely on is an address given to him many years ago, completely unaware of the demolition and flooding in the area. Avoiding local swindlers, he tracks down Missy's uncle who tells him that his former wife is now in Yichang with his teenage daughter. Staying on to work in the demolition projects, Han engages in conversations with other workers who complain of the low wages they are receiving (60 to 70 Yuan a day) and want to return to Shanxi province with Han where they can earn 200 Yuan a day working in the dangerous coal mines. In the second story, Shen Hong (Zhao Tao), a nurse arrives from Shanxi as well and is also searching for a missing person, her husband Guo Bin, who left the family two years ago. She is aided in her search by archaeologist Wang Dongming but it is uncertain what course of action Shen has in mind when she reunites with her husband. The film, however, is not about the story line but about the landscape and the atmosphere, playfully charged by the CG appearance of a UFO and a spaceship that takes off in the middle of the rubble. In Still Life, Jia demonstrates to the world how one of China's most gorgeous areas, one that brings in 1.3 million tourists a year, has become a scene of squalor. Jia says: "We all know there is major change going on in China and I wanted to get more people to know what's happening.