This modest period drama, set in the south of Ireland before partition in 1921, successfully avoids most of the pratfalls and preciousness inherent in the genre. Based on Jennifer Johnston's elegant and expressive novel The Old Jest, it mirrors the events of the mounting IRA terrorist campaign in the maturing mind and soul of an 18-year-old girl. The setting is the world of fading grandeur of the old Anglo-Irish ascendancy. Independent-minded Nancy (Pidgeon) lives in a great house presided over by her aunt (Simmons) and wheelchair-ridden ex-General grandfather (Howard, visibly his last role). Wilful and arty, she thinks herself enamoured of a straitlaced ex-army stockbroker (Grant), but with the arrival of a mysterious stranger (Hopkins), events take a tragic turn; a crisis is triggered, and Nancy is forced to examine her loyalties. Knights' film is solidly crafted, but its main strength lies in the performances. Rebecca Pidgeon makes a remarkable debut, exhibiting a rare ability to externalise thought and feeling.