Gervaise Macquart (Maria Schell) is a beautiful Parisian laundress and mother whose lover, Lantier (Armand Mestral) walks out on her. She eventually marries Henri Coupeau (François Perier), a roofer who has an unfortunate accident. As her now crippled husband descends into alcoholism, Gervaise tries to make ends meet on her own. Life becomes even more complicated when Lantier returns and befriends Henri. Meanwhile, the man she really loves, Goujet (Jacques Harden), is sent to prison.