After hitchhiking to the fog-laden port city of Le Havre, where he intends to sail overseas, army deserter Jean (Gabin) meets troubled runaway Nelly (Morgan) at a bar for down-and-out marginal types. Smitten by her beauty, Jean soon becomes embroiled in Nelly's struggle to free herself from the lusty embrace of her guardian (Simon), as well as the advances of a two-bit local gangster (Brasseur) who may have iced her missing boyfriend.
An early example of French film noir, Carne's "Shadows" is an exceptionally sordid tale of fate and doomed love starring two icons of classic French cinema: tough-guy Gabin and oddball actor Simon, here playing a lascivious creep. The film marks the debut of Morgan, a melancholy but luminous presence, and Brasseur is good, too, as the hood Gabin publicly humiliates. Jacques Prevert's poetic dialogue livens up the gloom, lending Carne's dreary realism an almost dreamy feel, and paved the way for their later collaboration on "Children of Paradise."