This icy British psycho-drama unfolds in the late 19th century, when a 17-year-old named Katherine is essentially bought from her working-class parents by an elderly Northern England industrialist to marry his 40-year-old son and give his estate an heir. This may be difficult as he prefers to gaze at her naked without touching.
The son also commands Katherine to stay indoors. So by day, she sits on a sofa, attended by a maid who doesn't bond with her mistress in their shared servitude. Katherine soon finds an outlet for her stifled desires in an affair with a young groom — but the couple's passion could prove to be their undoing. Here we see evil as a contagion that transforms the brutalized into the brutalizing.