In the opening scenes of this politically-oriented drama, a killer enters the home of a policeman and in a shocking sequence murders him in cold blood - an act that becomes the key to the rest of this film about the conflict between politics and life. Young Catholic, Cal (John Lynch) works in a slaughterhouse during the day and has participated in terrorist activities, but he wants out after he has been forced to drive a getaway car in the murder of the policeman. Meanwhile, he is slowly enchanted by Marcella, an older woman (Helen Mirren) who has just started working at the local library. Smitten but shy, Cal manages to ease himself into a job on her land, and when his father's home is burned to the ground by Protestants, Cal moves into a cottage on the woman's estate. Eventually, the two start a quiet liaison - but Cal's inner turmoil disturbs the happiness he feels when he is with Marcella. Can he continue to hide his terrorist past from Marcella, who knows nothing about what he has done?