This drama is set in England from 1908 to 1932 and revolves around the unconventional relationship between two members of a bohemian group of modernist writers, artists, and thinkers. Dora Carrington is a young painter who falls in love with Lytton Strachey, a homosexual essayist and biographer who takes her for "a ravishing boy" the first time he lays eyes on her. They set up house together and she remains devoted to him even after marrying and having affairs with other men. Carrington and Strachey are soulmates who share an appreciation for sexual and artistic creativity.

Writer and director Christopher Hampton has based this drama on the monumental biography of Lytton Strachey by Michael Holroyd. Jonathan Pryce dominates the film with his fussy and idiosyncratic performance as the outspoken homosexual and iconoclastic chronicler of 20th century excesses. Emma Thompson is just right as the mysterious Carrington, a late bloomer who finds her own way as a woman, artist, and lover.