Palin plays Francis Ashby, a senior Oxford professor on holiday in the Swiss Alps in 1861. There he meets the American Caroline Hartley (Connie Booth) and her 18-year-old ward Elinor (Trini Alvarado). Ashby is drawn to them both, particularly Elinor, but is rather surprised when they arrive in Oxford and rent a house. Women are not allowed in the College, nor are Fellows allowed to marry, which puts him in an embarrassing situation. Ashby's rival for the post of College President, Oliver Syme (Alfred Molina), takes full advantage of this to try to discredit Ashby.
The plot was based on a real-life incident involving Palin's great-grandfather, Edward Palin.
The film won the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for Best film/screenplay.
The CD soundtrack composed by Georges Delerue is available on Music Box Records label (website).