The opening sequence to Les diables swiftly establishes the precarious nature of the existence of Chloé (Haenel) and her brother Joseph (Rottiers), who are around 12 or 13 years old. They steal food from somebody’s house before retreating into the forest, where they are sleeping rough. They are being pursued by the police, who soon catch up with them and place them in a home for disturbed children in Marseilles. Chloé appears particularly traumatised by her past experiences. She doesn’t speak, and constantly paces up and down, screaming if anyone touches her. The aggressive Joseph is hugely protective of his sister and suspicious of the efforts of adults, such as the residential psychiatrist (Bonaffé), to get Chloé to re-engage with the world. Fleeing from the centre after their mother reveals the ‘truth’ of their relationship, the two youngsters become even closer physically and emotionally, refusing to give up on their dream of a settled, loving family life.