Lonely spinster Judith Hearne (Maggie Smith) teaches piano and lives in a depressing boarding house in Dublin. Her life changes when she meets James Madden (Bob Hoskins), the enterprising brother of the owner. She quickly falls for him and, against all expectation, finds her love returned. As their romance develops, Judith becomes truly happy for the first time in her life. But, when it dawns on her that James has ulterior motives for pursuing their relationship, her world comes crashing down.