Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial drama explores the troubled life of a young man and his troubling relationship with his parents. Joe (Matthew Barry), the son of famous opera singer Caterina Silveri (Jill Clayburgh), is moody and rebellious and needs a strong father figure to guide him. When he witnesses his father committing suicide, it sends him over the edge. In hopes of boosting her singing career, Caterina decides to move to Italy with Joe in tow where he falls in with a dangerous crowd and becomes addicted to heroin. Hoping to lure her son back to a safer and more healthy lifestyle, Caterina tries to become closer to him, which leads to a flirtation with incest.