Beautiful Nelly (Béart) is in a serious rut: working unfulfilling temp jobs, drowning in debt, and stuck in a dead-end marriage. When she has a chance encounter with the intriguing Monsieur Arnaud (Serrault), an elderly man of means who offers to pay off her debts, no strings attached, she is jolted out of her aimless existence. Soon Nelly has unceremoniously left her husband and agreed to assist the old gent with his memoirs, and the two form an intense, complex bond that is threatened by her budding interest in Arnaud's louche publisher Vincent (Anglade).
The final film from French auteur Claude Sautet, Nelly is a sweet yet never cloying exploration of the complexity of relationships. Sautet's depiction of a non-sexual friendship between an older man and a younger woman is subtly and believably drawn. Nelly's quarter-life coming of age is delicately played by the hauntingly lovely Béart, while veteran Serrault inserts a touch of darkness into his performance that takes his character beyond cliché. This low-key masterwork offers up a fascinating meditation on the unfathomable mysteries of human attraction.