Kuma tells the story of two women: Fatma is around 50, a housewife with six children. She lives in Vienna but grew up in Turkey and clings stubbornly to the traditions and values of the old country. Ayse is 19, and the film begins with her wedding in rural Turkey, to Fatma’s son Hasan, 21. However, when the family takes Ayse to Vienna this is revealed as a charade… for Ayse is to be the kuma (second wife) of Fatma’s husband Mustafa, 60.
We now learn that Fatma herself instigated this step, because she has been diagnosed with cancer and fears for her family’s future if the treatment is unsuccessful and she dies. Hasan, though Ayse’s husband on paper, now avoids her, Fatma’s two older daughters - Kezvan and Nurcan - treat her with contempt, and the two younger children hardly know how to react to Ayse’s presence.
But Ayse fulfils her role here with tact and determination, taking care of the family while Fatma undergoes chemotherapy. Both women are pleased when Ayse becomes pregnant, and the baby brings reconciliation with Nurcan. Gradually the two young women become close.
Then the family suffers a terrible blow of fate which also leaves them short of money, and Ayse has to leave the protection of the apartment for the world outside. She takes a job in a nearby Turkish supermarket and soon slips into a sexual relationship with Osman, who works there and has worshipped her since she arrived in Vienna. Ayse is uncomfortable about this situation, but before she can break it off she betrayed, finds her illusory world collapsing around her.