Four very different women share a room in a maternity ward: Cecilia Ellius (Ingrid Thulin) is admitted to hospital with severe bleeding. When the foetus aborts, she experiences a moment of tremendous clarity: the baby never should have been born, her husband, Schoolmaster Ellius (Erland Josephson), didn’t want a child and never loved her. Stina Andersson (Eva Dahlbeck), who is late in delivering, is joyously looking forward to her baby boy – it’s got to be a boy, and he’ll be called Harry like his loving dad (Max von Sydow). Hjördis (Bibi Andersson), a young girl from the provinces, is again unwillingly pregnant by her boyfriend, but doesn’t think she is up to being a mother and is afraid to tell her own mother. Nurse Brita (Barbro Hiort af Ornäs) provides sensitive care and advice for the three women.
Based on a script by Ulla Isaksson, Bergman has produced a very frank, realistic and moving drama about pregnancy. He has no need of changes of scene, music or flashbacks and concentrates on the faces of the women and their relationship to one another and to their respective partners.
At the 1958 film festival in Cannes Ingmar Bergman was named Best Director and the four female protagonists shared the Best Actress award collectively.