Nicholas, the son of peasant farmers, lives with his parents and grandparents on a farm. Their lives are in turmoil. Nicholas' father, Mare, has had to destroy his entire herd of cattle due to an outbreak of Mad Cow Disease. Under the strain, he hangs himself. Noel, the patriarch of the clan, begins to feel the farm slipping through his fingers. A ray of hope appears in the form of Maria, whom Nicholas had given a lift just days before his father's death. A retired opera singer, now living with her two young children in an isolated mountain retreat, Maria gives Nicholas the inspiration to lift the family out of its current predicament.
Winner of the Best Film Award, as well as the Best Actor Award—for 85-year-old stage and screen veteran Jacques Dufilho—at the San Sebastian International Film Festivai, What is Life? is an affirmation of the resilience and strength of people in the toughest of situations. With vivid widescreen imagery, Dupeyron's film is a lush, richly textured film experience.