The title refers to a small town in the northeastern county of Yorkshire. Jean Travers (Vanessa Redgrave) has lived here all her life; she’s a lonely schoolteacher, tormented by the memory of a teenage love affair with a boy who was senselessly murdered while on air force duty in Malaya.
The film opens with a dinner party hosted by Jean in her little cottage. Present are two couples, close friends, and a young stranger John Morgan, whom Jean assumes came with one of the couples, while they in turn assume he is her guest. Next day, Morgan returns to the cottage, and while Jean is making tea, he pulls out a gun and kills himself.
The skill of Hare’s approach is that he initially allows us to assume, via normal cinema techniques, that what we saw of the dinner party was the whole story. Gradually, however, we realize we only saw a highly selected part of that evening, and as we return to it again and again, the whole story takes on a different complexion.
Performances are uniformly excellent. Joely Richardson (real-life daughter of Redgrave and Tony Richardson) portrays Redgrave in her youth with great conviction.