"You've destroyed my son, you have no right to destroy his son!"
- Ludovic Regnier (Miche Bouquet) to Helene (Stephane Audran)
Bohemia and the bourgeoisie clash in Claude Chabrol's harrowing tale of a young mother fighting for her child and her sanity. Helene (Stephane Audran) awakes one morning to her husband's incoherent ravings and physical assaults, and, fearing for her life, decides to leave him. She takes her seriously wounded child to the hospital, then moves to a seedy boarding house close to her son's hospital and files for divorce. But, in response, her husband's wealthy and arrogant parents begin a campaign of slander, eventually hiring a down-and-out and slightly shady family friend, Paul Thomas (Jean-Pierre Cassel), to find or plant evidence of Helene's depravity. Helene's world spins out of control as Thomas insinuates himself into her life and manipulates all of her friends to turn against her. Chabrol paves a path towards panic with vertiginous cinematography and claustrophobic art direction as Thomas' schemes to incriminate Helene become more outlandish and increasingly dangerous. Despite her questionable past as a barmaid and stripper, Helene maintains her righteousness, sidestepping Thomas at every turn. The downtrodden boarding house owner and fellow boarders get sucked into the web of deceit and destruction, as Chabrol concocts a shocking and compelling climax to Helene's ordeal.