Based on an autobiographical novel by Marie Cardinal, this well-acted psychological drama details the tormented relationship between Marie (Nicole Garcia) and her mother, stemming from Marie's childhood on their estate in Algeria. The mother, Eliane (Marie-Christine Barrault) had lost a child before Marie was born, and was consumed with hatred for her husband who was carrying tuberculosis and may have been the cause of the child's death. That hatred was never resolved, and Marie grew up in a bitter and strained household. As both women grow older, Marie marries and raises a family while her mother sinks ever deeper into anger, frustration, poverty, and isolated despair. She vents her destructive emotions on her daughter and is completely resistent to her daughter's attempts to help her, to make her life better.