The film follows Maxime Nathan and his Jewish family in France during the years leading up to World War II. François Grimbert grows up in Paris in the 1950s. He is the skinny, sickly son of two marvelously athletic parents, Tania and Maxime. For a while, he dreams of a stronger, fitter, more charismatic older brother to compensate for his own feelings of inadequacy. Only gradually does he learn of his parents' tragic past and that he has a sibling — a half-brother named Simon, his father's first son.
Simon is the big secret, but the discovery opens the door to further revelations and deeper enigmas. François knows that his parents met sometime around the war, and he imagines their courtship and marriage in the shadow of atrocities which nobody talks about any more.