José, a farm worker, has shown an interest in Gabrielle, which is sufficient for her mother to set up a match. Gabrielle is very hostile to this idea, but in the end agrees, informing José that she will not love him or have sex with him. She is, in fact, a very mean young woman, contrasting with José's gentle and extremely tolerant disposition. She continues to humiliate him despite his generous feelings towards her.
Gabrielle has long suffered abdominal pains (kidney stones, thus mal de pierres) and José agrees to pay for her to go to a spa in the Swiss mountains for treatment. While there, she catches sight of an army lieutenant, André, who has returned from the Indochina war suffering kidney problems. She befriends him and rapidly develops a similar longing for him that she had for the teacher back home.
Gabrielle returns home to José saying she is pregnant with André's child. She writes to him but receives no replies, all the letters eventually being returned unopened. Ultimately, she accepts that she may never see André again and settles down as a wife and mother.
Finally we return the the opening scene of the film, where José and Gabrielle are taking her son. Marc, to a music competition. On the way Gabrielle spots a street that she recognises as Andrés address. She gets out of the taxi and goes to find André.
What follows may leave you a little confused.