Long ago abandoned by her husband, Amanda Wingfield (Katharine Hepburn) dominates her children with her faded gentility and exaggerated tales of her Southern belle past. Her son Tom (Sam Waterston) is now the family's breadwinner but longs to be free from the shackles of his family. Her disabled daughter Laura (Joanna Miles) is painfully shy and withdraws into a dream world to escape her feelings of inadequacy. Amanda decides the only future for Laura is to find a husband for her. The arrival of Tom's friend Jim O'Connor (Michael Moriarty) as a potential suitor leads the family situation to crisis point.