Adapted from Yan Geling’s novel “Buyu’s Mountain Hostel”, The Years You Were Late follows professional soldier Mu Jian Feng (Huang Xiao Ming)’s life under the influence of the economic reforms. In 1985, the military medical team is asked to assist Company 3 who is currently constructing rail tracks. This is when Mu Jian Feng, Mo Li (Yin Tao), Zhao Yi Qin (Qin Hai Lu), Wen Ting (Fan Zhi Bo) and Wang Jian Yun (Tian Zheng) get to know each other. Several years later, when they all have started a new phase of life, Jian Feng and Mo Li meet again and develop feelings for each other, while Jian Yun and Wen Ting are talking about marriage. However, Wen Ting discovers that she has a hereditary mental illness and leaves Jian Yun. At the same time, Jian Feng decides to leave Mo Li as well due to an inferiority complex. He goes to the seaside to start a business there, where he ends up marrying Yi Qin. And Mo Li also becomes the wife of someone else. Later on, the former companions meet from time to time in Buyu’s Mountain Hostel to recall past times.
At the end of the 1950s, the student of the Beijing Broadcasting Institute Wen Yi Qiu (Yin Tao) falls in love with the Soviet announcer Wei Ka and marries him in Beijing. Shortly after, however, the Soviet Union decides to withdraw its specialists stationed in Beijing and Wei Ka is forced to return to his home country. Thereupon, Yi Qiu leaves for the frontier town Hehei, where she starts working as an announcer, only to be nearer to her husband. Later on, Wei Ka gets a post in Blagoveshchensk, the city at the other side of the frontier. The two find comfort in listening to each other’s broadcast attentively, while hoping for the Chinese-Soviet relationship to get better.