Set against the backdrop of the French Alps, Motherhood is the melancholy story of servant girl Marthe (Hella Muller). Unmarried and pregnant, Marthe dolefully gives up her baby for adoption, reasoning that it's all for the best. The child is taken in by the wealthy Duchemin family, growing up in the lap of luxury. Years later, the boy Jean (Henri Presles), now a full-grown man, accidentally hits an old woman with his motorcar. That's right: the old lady is none other than his mother Marthe, who promises herself never to reveal her true identity, not even when the repentant Jean visits her in the hospital.
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