Helene is a urban social worker. During the day, she seems capable, tough and in charge to her down-and-out clients. However, her personal life is a mess. As the story opens, she drives to visit a friend, Maggie, who is not at home. Looking for her at work, she finds her friend's co-worker, Michael, who violently and easily seduces her. Helene seems compelled to acquiesce to another's desires, without making a decision on her own. At home, Helene has an open relationship with Reed. Reed is a junkie - he loves his drugs more than Helene. She knows this, but experiences no drive to either help him or leave him. She doesn't participate in his drug use, but is a passive observer.
Meanwhile, another friend's husband, Richard, is strangely obsessed with Helene, occasionally harassing her. Although his wife, Clarissa, confides her fears to Helene that Richard is having a mental breakdown, Helene neither rebuffs Richard nor tells Clarissa about his strange behavior.
Helene discovers that the stranger she slept with, Michael, is not only Maggie's co-worker, but her new fiance. Although upset at this deception, she still is incapable or unwilling to reject his sexual advances. Reed experiences a drug overdose, and even the doctors pressure her to dump him and enter therapy, but instead, she brings him more drugs when he asks her to. Finally, after an act of arson, Richard is committed to a mental hospital. His psychologist gives Clarissa notebooks filled with Richard's writing, in which he admits to his obsession with and stalking of Helene. Clarissa confronts Helene with the notebooks, which clearly show Richard's insanity. However, rather that reacting with shock or horror, Helene sees her own mental state mirrored by that reflected in the notebooks.
This report prepared by Althea Morin