At the beginning of the 20th century, Pédret, a Spanish immigrant arrives in the southwest French country side. He becomes a blacksmith and marries Augustine, the daughter of the village baker. By 1936 Pédret’s forge has become a foundry where his three sons are the managers. Years later when Augustine, now a bourgeois matriarch, realizes that her son Hector is having an affair with Berthe, a lowly seamstress, she tries to ruin Berthe’s business and drive her out of town even if it means bribing her. But old Pédret, who knows that his sons have their spirits broken, can see that Berthe has the blunt good sense they lack, and he arranges for Bethe and Hector to be married.
While the bourgeois wives of the two other sons mope and become peevish, Berthe makes herself useful. In the war, she is a heroine of the Resistance; when the business is imperiled by a strike, she settles it by acceding to the workers demands. She takes over the dominant role in management, and becomes the new matriarch as well. In contrast with the practical Berthe, Regina, her sister in law is flighty. Dark and beautiful, Regina is married to Prosper, Pédret’s youngest son and the only one with a college education. But Regina and the handsome, refined Prosper are a mismatch.
A rapacious dreamer, Regina, fed up with the dull austerity of provincial society, runs off with an American soldier. Eventually, Berthe comes to control the family's fortunes, but economic challenges in the 1950s force her to turn to an unlikely source for financial help: her obnoxious sister-in-law Regina who has come back, more stunning than ever, with an American industrialist lover. Regina may now be willing to aid Berthe in exchange for her freedom.
Source : Wikipedia