Mathias (Kevin Kline), a down-and-out New Yorker, travels to Paris to liquidate a huge, valuable apartment he has inherited from his estranged father. Once there, however, he discovers a refined old woman Mathilde (Maggie Smith) living in the apartment with her daughter Chloé (Kristin Scott Thomas).
Mathias quickly learns that the apartment is a "viager" - an ancient French system for buying and selling apartments - and that he will not actually get possession of the apartment until Mathilde dies.
While working with a Parisian real-estate dealer (Dominique Pinon), to sell his contract for the apartment, Mathias discovers that Mathilde and his father were more to each other than mere tenant and landlord...
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