It's a simple story, Gérard (Gérard Depardieu) meets Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert) at a motel in Death Valley, California because 6 months ago, each received a letter written by their gay photographer son Michael just before he committed suicide, telling them that they should meet for a week there and visit various spots in the Death Valley. The two had not met for years after their divorce, each now remarried and lead separate lives.
The camera follows them around, sometimes separately and sometimes together, during the day, at night, at the swimming pool, in the restaurant, in their bedrooms, in the corridors, in the motel garden, at various scenic spots in the Death Valley. They started talking, about their past, their current condition and their son. Isabelle believes that somehow, their son will re-appear at some of the spot(s) he directed them to go in his letter to them but Gérard thinks that that is nonsense and that when a person is dead, he is dead, irrespective of whether we want to accept that fact or not. But as the film progresses, strange things begin to happen. First, Isabelle had a dream. She was in Italy with Gérard and Michael. Then she lost them in the crowd. She frantically looked for them. When she found them, she discovered that where there were eyes, she found only two black holes on their faces. Gérard told her it was just a nightmare and not to think further about it. Then on the second night, she screamed because she felt that in the darkness of her room she was gripped on her ankles by the hands of their dead son Michael. When Gérard went into her room, he found nothing and nobody. But the following morning, when Isabelle was visiting one of the spots with Gérard, she discovered by accident two red marks around both her ankles at the spots where the previous night, she thought she was gripped by Michael's hands. Then whilst walking on the grounds of the desert motel naked because of the intolerable heat, Gérard saw a squint-eyed girl in a blue dress in a twisted body posture standing in the middle of a tennis courtyard about 10 feet away from where he was walking on a path. He asked her what she was doing. She replied that she wanted to see him. He asked why. She told him he would die. Gérard, who some time earlier was diagnosed with kidney cancer, was due for another appointment with a specialist immediately after that special desert trip. But he ignored her and continued on his way. Then the following day, when Isabelle was resting in the shade because of the heat, he felt an urge to go inside a desert alley and there, he thought he saw his sun. He rushed in the direction of that brief glimpse. When he returned, he told Isabelle he saw his son who told him he loved him. This time, Isabelle disbelieved him. Then he showed her two red marks on his wrists and told that his hands were gripped by Michael
Does a man have a soul? If so, will the soul have some supernatural powers to return to the world of the living and have some kind of physical contact with them. What is the point of Michael asking both his parents to visit all those spots he directed them to? Does he wish them to reflect back on the good times they spent together? Is he trying to work at a reconciliation between them? Is he trying to rehearse them for their own death? How much do we know about death and the world of the dead? Are rational answers about such questions the final word on such issues? If not, what else is there? Whatever the answers may be, we have an excellent performance from each of the two actors who succeed in titillating our minds with such queries.