Roman couturier Clelia (Eleonora Rossi-Drago) leaves the big city to work at a boutique in Turin. She moves into a hotel and makes several new friends, but is soon drawn into their extremely unpleasant lives.
Clelia enters a doomed relationship with a poor architect's assistant (Ettore Manni), sees her new best friend Rosetta (Madeleine Fischer) commit suicide after being jilted by her married lover (Gabriele Ferzetti), and is eventually fired from her new job when her hysteria over Rosetta's death interferes with her work.
Clelia finally goes back to Rome, and viewers will not blame her a bit. Le Amiche, based on a 1949 article published in La Bella Estate (Tre Donne Sole by Cesare Pavese), is perhaps Michelangelo Antonioni's first great film.
Juggling 10 characters with great aplomb, Antonioni and co-screenwriters Suso Cecchi D'Amico and Alba De Cespedes have created a rich, interlocking narrative which manages to rise above mere melodrama through careful attention to the ebb and flow of interpersonal relationships and a keen sense of balance.
The fine supporting cast includes Valentina Cortese, Yvonne Furneaux, and Franco Fabrizi.