On the coast of Portugal in 1942, the war creeps in among the fishermen. Luis Ferraz has felt the loss of loved ones from disease, accidents, and the Civil War in Spain. For him, there is a simple rule: go day to day and help those he can. His sister, a nun, his brother Gastao, and crippled father, Sebastiao, plead for him to finish rebuilding his boat and go back to sea. This village believes that old superstitions and the power of symbols will spare them the consequences of the surrounding war, just as the Virgin Mary saved the life of a duke in medieval times. But Luis keeps helping the Resistance in his own way. Now that a German officer, Erich Folgen and his wife Annika have moved to town, he offers his carpentry skills to spy on the radio communication the officer keeps in his shed. Luis drops messages and stores ammunition until he discovers that Annika, too, is working for the partisans. Erich travels to and from the tungsten mines in the eastern part of the country. Increasingly frustrated by his duties, he takes out his anger on his wife and blames her for not becoming pregnant and advancing his career with a new Aryan child. Annika suffers in silence and relief, since she knows he is impotent. She fears more beatings and needs to hold the marriage together until she can continue helping the Resistance. The church commands the top of the hill part of the town with a funicular connecting the beach and the docks. The nuns, who teach orphan girls, are sympathetic to the Resistance ideals, and they receive communication that two little Jewish girls, one of them deaf, are on their way to the village to escape to Lisbon. Annika and Sister Madalena prepare for the girls’ arrival, just as Erich recruits Gastao and his friend Marco to begin sending and receiving messages from their large boat. Erich’s soldiers, Helmut and Dieter, chase shadowy figures and pick up British stray bullets that they find in a field. Under the stress of discovery by the Nazis, Luis and Annika’s friendship deepens when she reveals her Jewish roots. She was recruited to spy on Erich by marrying him after her parents were captured and presumably killed. They begin a passionate affair that results in Annika’s pregnancy, which she keeps secret from both Erich and Luis. Confessing to Sister Madalena that Luis is the father, she plans to escape with the two girls when they arrive. Madalena and Annika plan to trick Erich by switching clothes and disguising her as a nun so that she can escape down to the funicular. Sebastiao finishes the boat and awaits on the shore for Luis, Annika, and the girls. Annika starts down the funicular, but Helmut and Dieter also board and eye her with suspicion. After a drunken spree, Erich discovers the hidden medical report, and in a rage, jumps on the motorcycle that Luis has sabotaged by pouring water in the gas tank and ripping the brake cable. Luis hears his brother’s boat leave the dock, paid by Erich to send Nazi codes from the Atlantic. He runs up the muddy hill, since he assumes that Annika is waiting for him at the top. Erich sees a woman dressed as Annika, and skids his motorcycle into a tree. Luis sees Erich’s motorcycle crash and explode into flames. He runs toward the woman dressed as Annika and realizes it is Madalena. They watch from the cliff as Annika’s small boat makes its way to the south toward Lisbon. Finally, Gastao’s boat is captured off the coast of Canada before he can reveal the secret amphibious landing of the Allied troops in North Africa. It seems that the miracle of the Virgin works in 1942 as well.