At a Shanghai apartment, Mr Hou, a Nationalist official, gets ready to move to Taiwan upon the imminent defeat of the KMT during the Civil War. Mrs Hou gives an ultimatum to the rest of the tenants to move out on behalf of her husband, who is the "owner" of the flat and who is now planning to sell it. From the conversations with the rest, we find out that Hou has been a Hanjian during the Sino-Japanese War and that he has since taken over the apartment by force from the old landlord, Mr Kong.
The tenants, including Mr Kong, Mrs Xiao, Little Broadcast (alias Mr Xiao, played by Zhao Dan) and a schoolteacher, Mr Hua, and his wife, initially plan to band together, but circumstances force them to find other ways out. Mr Hua tries to find a place to stay at the KMT-sponsored school he is teaching in. Little Broadcast and Mrs Xiao invest in black market gold. As the situation escalates, Mr Hua gets arrested by KMT agents and his young daughter falls desperately ill.