In Marcel Carné's Hotel du Nord, young lovers Renée and Pierre (Annabella and Jean-Pierre Aumont) take a room at the titular canal-facing working-class hotel. It turns out they are not out for a spot of private necking, but for reasons not explicitly spelled out, a double suicide. After some flowery last words, Pierre fires a pistol at her, then chickens and runs out. Turns out she is not dead either, and recovers in hospital while he turns himself in to the cops. Renee does not bear a grudge but Pierre loathes himself and treats her meanly when she visits him in prison. In the meanwhile she earns her keep as a waitress at the hotel, where her good looks mean that she attracts the attention of other men.
The film also focuses on another pair of guests, Mme Raymonde (Arletty) – a middle-aged lady of the night – and her pimp and lover Edmond (Louis Jouvet, whose face bears some resemblance to the German star Conrad Veidt). They have a more cynical and tempestuous relationship, which generates a lot of the spice and humor of the film. Then Edmond falls in love with Renee in a manner that breaks through his hard-boiled front. Apart from these two pairs, there's an ensemble supporting cast composed mainly of the people staying in or working at the hotel.
If Hotel du Nord is one thing, it is romantic. This is most apparent in its treatment of the young lovers. Annabella as Renée was very obviously chosen for her ethereal looks, and she is always made up and photographed in the manner of classic Hollywood stars. There is an element of theatricality in the lines she shares with her lover. In contrast, the repartee between Mme Raymonde and Edmond has a street-wise staccato rhythm. The film plays indulgent observer to these couples and their interactions with each other and with the other characters.