Hélène (Sandrine Bonnaire), a housekeeper at a ritzy hotel in Corsica, is devoted to her family but lacks any passion in her own life. When she sees a handsome couple play a passionate game of chess, she becomes inspired to play herself. Hélène's working-class husband (Francis Renaud) and spoiled daughter (Valerie Lagrange) are soon bewildered by her obsession with chess. They also grow suspicious of Hélène's close relationship with Dr. Kröger (Kevin Kline), her eccentric American expat tutor.
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