A quietly observed true-life tale, The Story of Women neatly avoids lionizing its central figure, based on Marie-Louise Girard, who was executed for performing illegal abortions in Vichy France. Marie is a woman with a practical disposition; when a friend asks Marie to help her terminate her pregnancy and the result is successful, Marie realizes that there is more to life than a loveless marriage to a husband suffering from shell shock. She is not, in short, a moral crusader, but a businesswoman, and her practicality extends to having an affair with a collaborator who can provide her with some measure of sexual pleasure. Rarely cracking even a tiny smile, Isabelle Huppert makes Marie a rather chilly character, but you can't help admiring her resourcefulness in the midst of a population that director Claude Chabrol portrays as either walking dead or opportunistic traitors. Standing up to the swinish Vichy authorities at the story's end, Marie finally comes off as a figure of dignity.
by Tom Wiener review