Camila is a member of a wealthy Buenos Aires family in 1847. While her sisters obey orders from their imperious father to find suitable mates, the independent Camila (Susan Pecorar) yearns for a transcendent love. While Father Ladilao Gutierrez (Imanol Arias) arrives to serve her parish, the young woman is swept away by his dark good looks and intense idealism. She is impressed by his sermon condemning the excessive violence of the secret police under Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosta.

Through an accumulation of small details and peripheral character portraits, director Maria Luisa Bemberg recreates the stifling atmosphere of Buenos Aires — the result of patriarchal families, the legalism of the Catholic Church, and oppressive government policies. Camila's love, first expressed in furtive looks, is further unveiled during her heated confessions, and finally bursts into steamy passion when Father Gutierrez can no longer deny the vociferousness of his libido.

By capitulating to their forbidden love, these two are in defiance of all that this Catholic society holds sacred. They flee the capital and find a small portion of happiness teaching in a small village school. The authorities eventually track them down, and they are imprisoned. Father Gutierrez, burdened by feelings of guilt, resigns himself to the sentence of death by firing squad. Camila, to the end, remains a rebellious romantic true to her belief in the nobility of their love. Susa Pecoraro's stirring performance as this doomed woman makes Camila an engaging drama of both political and romantic clout.