Monsieur and Madame Arpel live in an ultra modern house, which is very un-French, with a geometric garden, minimal furniture and an automated kitchen that would have been extremely futuristic in 1958. Meanwhile everything around them is very French. A small town with run-down houses, a market and a tabac with les mecs passing the time of day drinking coffee or beer.
The Arpels have a son, Gérard, and his uncle is Monsieur Hulot, the eponymous Mon Oncle. Monsieur Hulot is the antithesis of the Arpels. He lives in an apartment at the top of a strange building that at first appears to be two properties, until we see Mr Hulot make his tortuous way to his apartment by way of different staircases and balconies. Once there he adjusts his window such that the sun's reflection is on a canary's cage attached to the wall of the building. The sunlight causes the bird to sing, and he experiments moving the window back and forth, listening as the bird bursts into song and then goes quiet again.
Monsieur Hulot is a gentle man, always with his pipe in his mouth, and politely helping people as he makes his way around the town. His relaxed demeanour endears him to Gérard, who much prefers his uncle's company to that of his father. The boy's life in the Arpel's clinically clean house is unappealing, and he would rather be out with his uncle, riding on the back of Hulot's motorised bicycle.