Marcel (André Wilms) is an impoverished Parisian poet and playwright who is evicted from his extremely modest room after he is unable to pay rent for it. While roaming the streets of Paris, he meets Rodolfo (Matti Pellonpää), a painter from Albania who is almost equally poor and is in the country illegally. They quickly discover they are kindred spirits since they both share the same love for art without much regard for their worldly well-being. The two eventually make another friend in Schaunard (Kari Väänänen), an Irish composer who is now renting Marcel's former room. The three friends help each other in the daily struggle to survive by sharing whatever little money they have among each other in order to maintain a basic and simple standard of living. Rodolfo's life is interrupted when he meets Mimi (Évelyne Didi), a poor French girl with whom he falls madly in love. But Rodolfo is soon deported back to Albania due to not having a visa. He is unable to return to Paris for six months and, by then, Mimi has moved on and found another boyfriend. Rodolfo, Marcel and Schaunard scrape together what food they have and have a meal together to celebrate the feast of All Saints. Mimi shows up and informs Rodolfo that she has left her boyfriend to be with him again, but she is ill and dies the next spring.
«That was the first Kaurismäki I saw on big screen. The story about three mouseless artists in Paris is sad, funny, touching. The worst possible thing always happens, and that's why the characters become close to our heart. Shot in black and white, it fits perfectly into the time it tells of. A film about loyalty to art and the artist.»― Bettina Oberli