The story takes place in a remote, mountainous area near the Iran-Iraq border in the Kurdish region of Iran. Ayoub, a hard-working adolescent, along with his three sisters and two brothers live a harsh life of economic deprivation. Their mother is dead and their smuggler father is away. Every day Ayoub and other village boys compete for a trip to a small town, where they are used for an assortment of odd jobs, including smuggling goods under their clothes.
Ayoub and his impoverished family face a new hardship when the local doctor tells them their handicapped brother, Madi, is critically ill and will die unless they take him to town for a hospital operation. Although they are told the operation will prolong Madi's life for only a few months, the family is determined to help Madi. Ayoub hopelessly tries but fails to raise money. His elder sister, Rojin, agrees to marry an Iraqi Kurd across the border on the condition that the groom's family pay for her brother's operation in Iraq.
Upon the bridal party's arrival, the groom's mother refuses to accept Madi, and after a heated argument, they give a mule in compensation to Rojin's family. Ayoub joins a group of smugglers to cross the border into Iraq to sell the mule for Madi's operation. The freezing, snow-covered mountain terrain in the war zone is so treacherous that the smugglers have to intoxicate their horses to move them.