Paul Dédalus is an anthropologist preparing to leave his posting in Tajikistan (played in his middle age by Mathieu Amalric). Reflecting on his life,
he has a series of flashbacks starting from his childhood in Roubaix—his mother’s attacks of madness, his father’s alienating depression. He remembers a student trip to the USSR, where a clandestine mission led him to offer up his own identity for a young Russian, whom he considered a phantom twin for the remainder of his life. He remembers university life, and returning to his hometown to party with his sister and her best friend, his shifting circle of friends and their casual betrayals. And most of all he remembers Esther, the beautiful, rude, haughty soul and love of his life.