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Marcel Marx, a former author and a well-known Bohemian, has retreated into voluntary exile in the port city of Le Havre. Here he pursues the honorable, but not so profitable, occupation of shoeshiner; he feels closer to people by being at their service. He has buried his dreams of a literary breakthrough and lives happily within the triangle of his favourite bar, his work, and his wife Arletty, when fate suddenly throws in his path an underage illegal immigrant from Africa.
At the same time, Arletty also falls seriously ill and is hospitalized. Marcel must once more rise against the cold wall of human indifference, his innate optimism and the unwavering solidarity of the people in his neighbourhood his only weapons. But the whole blind machinery of the Western state stands in his path, represented by the police, whose net is drawing closer and closer around the refugee boy.
It's time for Marcel to polish his shoes and bare his teeth.
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