In turn-of-the-century Ireland, Sarah (Reeves) and her mother (Bruce) are servants in the Echlin household; but after the old master's death, the remote Presbyterian community is shocked when Sarah starts having sexual relations with both Echlin brothers (McCann and Hinds), all three resisting overtures from the minister (Malahide) to join his flock. Sarah becomes pregnant: unsure which man is the father, reluctant to marry and embrace the hypocrisies of the church, she chooses to let both share in the child's upbringing. David Rudkin's intelligent adaptation of Sam Hanna Bell's novel explores national conflicts within the context of the community's intense divisions. 'The three curses of Ireland: England, religion and the drink' muses the elder brother as he strives to maintain equilibrium between the enraged locals and his defiant family. O'Sullivan's careful compositions and Bruno de Keyzer's exquisite cinematography lend the film a stark, simple grandeur, which in turn emphasises the harsh, physical nature of the characters' lives. The measured pace - beautifully sustained by the performances - ensures a film of sharp insight and striking clarity.