Long ago, in what seems like another lifetime to him, Paul (Ben Gazzara) had an illegitimate son by a local North African woman. For many years now he has lived in French Algeria with his wife Betty (Julie Christie), an English-born chanteuse. Now on the eve of independence, the dangers of remaining in Algeria are growing, and the pair are preparing to leave. Before they do, Paul's illegitimate son Wanis (Patrick Bruel), by now a charming young man with a fascination for automobiles as well as women, attempts to spark a romance with Betty. One of the movie's highlights is a stock car race with the couple's vintage Buick.