Agnieszka Holland’s early film, A Woman Alone, portrays a society on the brink of a catastrophe. The film was shot in 1981, when many of Holland’s colleagues, such as Andrzej Wajda, with whom she collaborated on 1977’s Man of Marble, felt optimistic about the rise of Poland’s independent unions. Its story centers on the life of Irena (Maria Chwalibóg), a single mother whose position in society is so marginal it becomes painfully oppressive. Belonging to neither the Communist Party nor Solidarity, Irena finds herself unable to count on anyone, except for her own meager resources. Living with her young son in squalid conditions on the outskirts of Lodz, she endures the lack of running water, heat, and electricity, not to mention her colleagues’ unshakable antipathy. Engaged in a stark battle for survival, she fights her neighbors and co-workers eager to take over her home and her job at a post office. In the midst of all this drudgery, Irena starts a romance with a disabled coalmine worker, Jacek (Bogusław Linda), and glimpses a chance of escape. The lovers’ wild plot to flee to the West comes to naught, however, after Irena steals money from pensioners to buy a used car and the two suffer a road accident.