Tim Burstall directed this adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's semi-autobiographical novel recalling his experiences in Australia in the early 1920s. The film, set at the height of World War I, begins at the English coastal home of writer Richard Somers (Colin Friels) and his German-born wife Harriet (Judy Davis). Since Somers is a conscientious objector and his wife is the nationality of the enemy, the British police pay him a visit. Somers is then drafted and undergoes a humiliating physical examination at the draft board. Seeing harassment in the air, Somers and his wife decide to leave England for the relative calm of Australia, where their neighbours are a pair of earthy suburbanites, Vicki (Julie Nihil) and Jack Calcott (John Walton). Jack, disillusioned by the war, has joined a fascist paramilitary group called the Diggers, led by a wealthy old general with the code name "Kangaroo" (Hugh Keays-Byrne). The Diggers want to stifle the emerging union movement in the country, and Kangaroo hopes to enlist Richard in the cause because "a country does not exist until it has found a voice". But Somers finds himself torn between opposing camps, since the Socialist trade unionists also want to utilize his writing skills for their own ends, looking for Somers to help them carry through "a partnership between poetry and power".