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On 22 February 1996, the French newspaper "Le Monde" reported the acquittal of a young mother tried for stealing meat from a supermarket near Poitiers.
The acquittal drew on the concept of "dire need," an old judicial precedent also "the right to bread." The newspaper article concluded with the opinion that the "verdict was just and humane."
A few days afterwards, the public prosecuter appealed.
Two months later, the initial verdict was rescinded on appeal. The young mother was found guilty-as-charged and sentenced.
Françoise Barnier, the film's heroine, is also a mother.
She, too, once committed a theft.
Her situation was critical, but no more so than usual. She was not in debt. She had always rejected the degradation of unmanageable debt and reliance on charity, and had struggled to live according to the rules laid down by society and the law. But that day, she stole. Trapped in a dead-end life of endless frustration and deprivation, she chose to commit an act of violence, futility, and absurdity of which she recognized, but one that somehow made her feel liberated, as if she was cutting the Gordian knot.
We witness her progress through the judicial system.One in which two concepts of justice and law will be brought face-to-face.