In Colombia just after the Great War, an old man falls from a ladder; dying, he professes great love for his wife. After the funeral, a man calls on the widow – she dismisses him angrily. Flash back more than 50 years to the day Florentino Ariza, a telegraph boy, falls in love with Fermina Daza, the daughter of a mule trader. Ariza is persistent, writing her constantly, serenading, speaking poetically of love. Her father tries to keep them apart, and then, one day, she sees this love as an illusion. She’s soon married to Urbino, a cultured physician, and for years, Ariza carries a torch, finding solace in the arms of women, loving none. After Urbino’s fall, are Ariza’s hopes delusional?
A chronicle which takes in the fifty-year period straddling the 19th and 20th centuries. We are privy to the feelings of the central character, Fiorentino Ariza. He cannot help staring at the lovely but shy Fermina Daza The film is framed by the accidental death from a fall out of a mango tree by the 80-year-old Dr. Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt), married for a half century to the 72-year-old Fermina Daza. Visited on the day of the funeral by Florentino Ariza, she is enraged at the gall of a man who professes his lifetime love for her, at which point the film flashes back to the early courtship and proceeds through some fifty-two years of their lives.