Unconventional country girl Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) has married charismatic egomaniacal man of letters, fourteen years her senior, known by the single name, ‘Willy’ (Dominic West). Through his auspices, Colette is introduced into the fecund world of the artistic demimonde in Paris where her creative appetite is sparked. Ever quick to capitalise on talent, Willy permits Colette to write her novels only if she does so in his name. The phenomenal success of her Claudine series makes Willy a famous writer and Colette and Willy the first modern celebrity couple.
Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a devastating diagnosis, Alice and her family find their bonds tested.