James and Anne have a town house in Chelsea and a comfortable former vicarage in Buckinghamshire. Anne is some years younger but they are childless. Outwardly they seem happy, but James, one of nature's moralists (unusual for a city lawyer), is a control freak. Just down the road is the aristocratic the Hon. William Buel, who is not one for middle-class morality, and he is more than happy to take advantage. But there's a complication, a road accident, in which an elderly cyclist is knocked over in a country lane by a ruthlessly driven Range Rover just like the Hon. Bill's. Soon James, Anne, Bill and the victim's widow (who happens to be James' and Anne's cleaner) are drawn in to a conspiracy to conceal what really happened. The primary focus is on the corrosive effect of all this on James and Anne's relationship.
The third person in this ménage a trios, Bill, is played by Rupert Everett. From the point of view of casting, his languid, superior manner is right for the part, yet somehow he doesn't quite get there. Partly this is because he is supposed to be sick for some of the time and he looks well when he is supposed to be sick, and vice-versa. The part seems underdeveloped. It is interesting that John Neville as Bill's father who has only one significant scene manages to establish his character beautifully in the time he has.
The world of five star hotels and superior restaurants is nicely evoked. As Julian Fellowes says in the audio commentary, these people are able to convince themselves that the Edwardian age still exists. At bottom though, the film is about what draws a couple together and what tears them apart. Nigel Balchin was going through a marriage break-up when he wrote the book, and Fellowes has made a good fist of conveying the atmosphere. As he says, his is a fairly free adaptation, but the central theme is the same.