Nova Scotia, the late '40s: Margaret MacNeil (Bonham Carter), a child-woman, struggles against the inexorable pull of the coal mines. With father and one brother already gobbled up, Margaret and her mother (Nelligan) vow to preserve the youngest male in the family (Olejnik). And when Margaret falls in love with Neil (Russell) - a fiddle-tickling, Gaelic-crooning giant - she makes it her mission to safeguard him, too. Clearly attracted by all things Celtic, director/co-writer Ransen makes much of the siren call of the dead, Margaret's primitive wedding and Cape Breton's boozy yarn-spinning locals. Too much: he rubs our nose in lots of carefully placed grit, but essentially this is 'pixies skipping in the moonlight' territory. All in all, the enterprise seems embarrassingly amateurish. But lo! Half-an-hour before the end comes a miracle. As intricately Gothic, as sexually bizarre as a Leonora Carrington dreamscape, Margaret's final attempt to preserve her loved ones dismembers the emotions. Is she damned or blessed? You're too stunned to tell. Visceral details float glutinously and all the while a feverishly numb Bonham Carter finally achieves a level of concentration that makes the scenes between her and Nelligan electric. It's hard to imagine a more exhilarating testament to the reality of poverty and the utter impotence of love.