Based on the novel by Camilla Gibb, Lilly is an English child abandoned in Africa, forced to flee Ethiopia for England amid civil war. There she befriends Amina, an Ethiopian refugee, and they begin a mission to reunite scattered families. Lilly, orphaned as a child, experiences her parents homeland of England, escaping civil war. She becomes the heart of a disenfranchised community in London, where she attempts to reunite people with their families. But her friend Amira discovers Lilly’s mission isn’t purely altruistic and a passionate lost love affair is revealed between Lilly and Aziz, an idealistic doctor.
This tale of religion, politics, and love moves between Ethiopia during the final years of Haile Selassie’s reign and England on the cusp of Thatcherism. After an unstable childhood spent travelling with her hippie parents, Lilly (Dakota Fanning) is abandoned in a Moroccan village, where the spiritual teachings of a Sufi master provide her with the discipline to find acceptance in the Ethiopian city where she later settles. Lilly’s orderly life is turned upside down, however, when outrage over the country’s gross disparities spills over into revolution. Lilly is forced to flee to London, where her status as a white Muslim woman makes her far more of a pariah than it ever did in Ethiopia, while at the same time granting her benefits withheld from Black refugees. Lilly is given a job and a small apartment, which she offers to share with fellow refugee Amina (Wunmi Mosaku), a young mother expecting her second child. Lilly also volunteers with a community association that helps refugees reconnect with family members. The work suits Lilly’s innate altruism, though she has a more personal reason to access its services: she hopes to track down the idealistic doctor (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) with whom she fell in love.