In Paris, in the early 20th century, young Fred Peloux, nicknamed Chéri, the handsome son of Charlotte Peloux, a former demimondaine, lives in the small circle of his mother's friends, all high class prostitutes past their best. He has an affair with Léonie Vallon, publicly known as Léa de Lonval, a waning beauty, who loves him both as a mistress and a mother. But, after six years spent together, the age difference takes its toll on their union. To please his mother, Chéri accepts to marry young Edmée, the only of Marie-Laure, a rich courtesan's daughter, without actually caring for her. After a while, the young man tries to return to Léa.