In Russia in the late 1960s, Elena will do anything to see that her son Yuri succeeds as a pianist: she longs for him to win a competition that will send him to Paris. To ensure his success, she denies her love for an iconoclastic painter for whom she models, prostitutes herself to a Party figure, encourages her son to break with his true love because the girl is a Jew, and, in general, behaves in paranoid ways, believing, for example, that a new lodger, Evgeny, is a KGB spy. She also has her own family secrets, which she will go to any length to keep her son from learning.
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