An old photographic axiom goes, "expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights." In essence, what this means is that the shadow areas of the negative are more or less fixed at the time of exposure. But the highlight areas can be manipulated by changes in development time. So if you have a "normal" range of tones in your scene (about 4 stops), you develop for a length of time that will preserve those values. If your scene has less than normal range, you can develop for longer to "expand" the contrast range. If you have a very contrasty scene you can develop for less than a normal time to compact the contrast range. The idea is to produce negatives that have good shadow values, highlights that are not too dense, and therefore print fairly easily.
That is the advantage of sheet film; you can develop each sheet separately to produce the contrast range you wish. The same thing can be accomplished with medium format cameras with removable backs. You can have a back for normal, flat, and contrasty scenes. With 35mm cameras you pretty much have to develop your film for the most important scenes, and live with less than ideal contrast for other scenes.