The Recchi family are wealthy first- and second-generation textile manufacturers. At a formal dinner party, ailing patriarch and founder Edoardo Sr. (Gabriele Ferzetti) celebrates his birthday by passing the business on to his son, Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), who has long worked with him, and also, unexpectedly, to his grandson Edoardo (Flavio Parenti). With Edoardo is his girlfriend Eva, whom he plans to marry.
Tancredi’s wife, Emma (Swinton), a native Russian, is restless. Her other grown children are a son, Gianluca (Mattia Zaccaro), and a daughter, Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher), who is studying art in London. Later Emma discovers that Elisabetta is a lesbian, but keeps it secret from her husband.
During the dinner, Edoardo Jr. has a surprise visit from Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a chef who beat him in a race earlier that day. Antonio brings a cake as a gift and Edoardo, flattered by the gesture, introduces him to his mother. The two men become friends and plan to set up a restaurant together.
Emma discovers that she has feelings for Antonio while eating one of his seafood dishes. She takes a trip to Sanremo and encounters Antonio there, going with him to his house in the hills above the city where they proceed to make passionate love. During a trip to London, Edoardo Jr. struggles against his father and others who want to sell the business. At a party, Emma instructs Antonio to prepare a Russian soup dish for Edoardo Jr. that she used to make for him as a child. Edoardo Jr. surmises from the dish, as well as a lock of Emma's hair he found at Antonio's house in Sanremo, that his mother and Antonio are having an affair. He leaves the party in disgust. Emma tries to talk to Edoardo Jr. but he pulls away from her and stumbles, hitting his head on an architectural artifact protruding from the paving and dying of a brain hemorrhage.
At the funeral, Tancredi tries to console Emma, but she tells him that she loves Antonio. Tancredi is incensed and Emma rushes back to her villa to change her fancy dress and put back jewelry and leave. Before she goes, she exchanges a knowing glance with Elisabetta.
After the initial end credits, Emma and Antonio are seen embracing inside a cave.