Liverpool, 1944. Nellie (Plowright), elderly dressmaker to her upper-working-class neighbourhood, has a scatty, sexually-active younger sister Margo (Whitelaw), and rules with a Victorian rod of iron over their repressed niece Rita (Horrocks). Nellie is not amused to disocer that Margo and Rita attended a raucous bonking bash with GIs stationed locally; still less, that Rita had fallen in love with boring Southern GI Wesley (Ransom). But Rita fails to meet the horny GI half-way, thereby ensuring an early end to the romance...and subsequently plunging the family into unexpected tragedy. In his first feature O'Brien admirably conveys an atmosphere of arsenic and old lace through realistic period sets, claustrophobic camerawork, and dim lighting, while
's wittily scripted adaptation of Beryl Bainbridge's novel is played with stylish gusto by all concerned. Horrocks plays the innocent so well that you feel like strangling her; Plowright and Whitelaw are a joy throughout.