Elsewhere in an imaginary village called Kirrary (on the Dinge Peninsula, in a real part of Ireland) during WWI. Rosy Ryan is the youthful, pretty and somewhat rose-tinted daughter of the local pub owner Tom Ryan (Leo McKern); she reads Byron, is in love with the chivalrous Peter Blood and believes in happily ever after; shielded and kept eons away from the reality of the War, secluded in her part of the picturesque village, where a modest British garrison is about the only reminder of the troubled history of the times. Her father, however is an informer of the British, although he puts up an act of regret that ‘our boys’ couldn’t hold the uprising against the suppressors.
The charming yet somewhat petulant Rosy is above the attentions of the local lads and would much rather set her eyes on someone with a ‘standing’ in society, a fact that Father Hugh Collins (Trevor Howard) is well aware of when she marries the staid, calm and much older than her school master - Charles Shaughnessy (Robert Mitchum). The elders of the village including the priest are disapproving of Rosy, yet can do precious little to change her from being a spit fire to a docile housewife!
Soon enough, Rosy is disillusioned and loses sight of the charm she associated married life with; Major Randolph Doryan, a British army officer, arrives to take charge of the garrison and as a result - with Rosy. Randolph was awarded the Victoria Cross for his contribution to the WWI, which left him crippled, and reeling from what we know today as post traumatic stress, then called ‘shell shock’ - for the helplessness soldiers felt when unprotected in the wake of shelling. His physical shortcomings seem lost to Rosy, who finds herself falling in love with the Major. What ensues is a riotous, torrid love affair, rendezvouses in the nights and hush toned sweet nothings. Although he suspects it, yet Charles decides against confrontation, even if the evidence of the affair is glaring and enormous.
All seems well, until the ubiquitous village buffoon Michael (John Mills) unintentionally discloses the secret affair to the villagers - who at once label her indiscretions with choicest epithets. Things take a turn for the worse when Rosy’s father Tom – rats on the plans of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, represented by Tim O’Leary (Barry Foster) to bully the pub owner into helping them recover a cache of arms that belongs to the Germans. Loyalty gets the better of him as Tom immediately alerts the British. Maj. Doryan confronts the IRB comrades, a gun fight ensues leaving in its wake a wounded O’Leary.
On the family front, Charles decides to let Rosy know that he is aware of her affair, and hopes that she would ‘come to’ - that night Rosy returns to her lover the Major, only to be seen by Charles, who wanders away, hurt and dismayed. He is discovered on the beach by Father Collins. The villagers, meanwhile get a whiff of the fact that their cause has been betrayed by one of their town - and the obvious choice is Rosy, given the palpable evidence there is of her affair with the British Major. In vigilante-style justice, the mob bears down on the couple, almost killing them, whist lynching and shearing Rosy’s hair - she however realizes it’s her father who is responsible for the deception all along, but does not give his secret up - bearing all the humiliation.
Doryan is dejected and feels responsible for her misery, he is led to the cache of yet undiscovered arms on the beach, and in a fit of guilt charged hopelessness, detonates the dynamite - committing suicide. Rosy leaves the village for Dublin, with her husband, Charles, who has decided he’d leave her, although the priest asks him to reconsider. Not a very well acclaimed film by critics, yet it grossed almost $31 million - a number to reckon with in the ’70s. Audiences liked the star crossed lover - meets - patriot ism-meets a whole jumble of human emotions - perhaps more the kind that suit normal movie buffs, as opposed to intellect seeking critics!