Set in France during the struggle for Algerian independence, Messaoud's mother is terminally ill and his father, needing to work long hours in the factory, can't look after him, so decides to put him and his older brother Abdel in foster care. Sent to the countryside, Abdel has to work on a farm, but Messaoud is taken in by a childless woman, who conceals his Arab origins from her fiercely Gaullist ex-army husband. Re-named Michel/Michou, and with his hair comically dyed blond, the young boy quickly steals the hearts of both foster-parents, and eventually is instrumental in saving their troubled marriage.
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