Stonefield and Winnards are neighboring farms in the lush, lovely West country of England. The farmsteads may be straight out of centuries past, but the setting is decidedly modern—the quaint village of Ewedown has become the weekend getaway for wealthy Londoners and aspiring writers seeking quiet and inspiration. Famous novelist NICHOLAS HARDIMENT (Roger Allam), celebrated for his popular “Doctor Inchcombe” crime series, presides with his wife BETH (Tamsin Greig) over the Stonefield Farm writers’ retreat, where the visiting writers are treated to Beth’s fabulous cooking and Nicholas’s self-regarding pomposities. While Beth is busy as the tireless engine behind the idyllic retreat—juggling kitchen, parlour, garden and chickens, along with insightful editorial advice—Nicholas churns out best-sellers and indulges in extramarital dalliances. Beth is attractive in a middle-aged earth-mother sort of way, but Nicholas’s eye turns to younger women.
The neighboring farm, Winnards, was the birthplace and ancestral home of ANDY COBB (Luke Evans), a handsome son of the soil who works for Beth as a gardener and handyman. When Andy was a boy, his hard-up family sold Winnards to the wealthy DREWE family from London as a country home, and now he lives in a cottage at Stonefield. As a local, Andy resents the newcomers playing landed gentry, but he and Beth are fond of each other and work hard together to keep Stonefield going.
High drama livens up the writers’ dinner hour one evening when they overhear a row between Nicholas and Beth, who has discovered his latest infidelity. After a few tense days, though, they are seen walking arm in arm; it’s clear that they’ve been through these cycles of betrayal, remorse, and forgiveness before. GLEN (Bill Camp), an affable, sad-sack American academic trying to conquer writer’s block and push on with his study of Thomas Hardy, despises Nicholas, not helped by his growing affection for Beth.
One day, Andy and Glen hear a burglar alarm emanating from Winnards, which has been uninhabited since the death of Mrs. Drewe. The intruder is TAMARA DREWE (Gemma Arterton), who has come to look after her late mother’s property. Andy barely recognizes her without her once-most distinctive feature, the large and beaky nose that, as Andy later tells Glen, he rather liked. The new, beakless Tamara is a knockout, and a minor celebrity for her column in a London paper (in which she related the details of her nose job). Andy thinks back fondly to his teenage shags with schoolgirl Tamara, but now that she is a gorgeous journalist, he considers her way out of his league—and probably too snooty and citified for his tastes anyhow. Nevertheless, Tamara frequently cajoles him over to Winnards to help fix up the place, much to the annoyance of Beth. It’s not just Andy who falls under Tamara’s spell, though; she has a knack for besotting anyone with her big brown eyes, flirtatious smile, and perfect nose. The only man around who seems to studiously ignore and snub Tamara is Nicholas—who watches her with binoculars when nobody’s looking.
Like a foul-mouthed Greek chorus, bored village teenagers CASEY (Charlotte Christie) and JODY (Jessica Barden) spy on the village goings-on. Boredom turns to frenzied excitement, however, when Tamara (whom the girls refer to as “Plastic Fantastic”) brings home their rock star idol BEN (Dominic Cooper) a surly but sexy drummer newly split from his band and newly hooked up with Tamara. Screeching around town in his yellow Porsche, with his boxer dog terrorizing the neighbors’ cows, Ben is a punkish fish out of water in the genteel village. When Ben and Tamara announce that they are engaged to marry, jaws drop and jealousies kindle.
The stage is thus set: will Ben give up London to live with Tamara in the sleepy dales (or vice-versa)? Will Nicholas stop pretending to ignore Tamara and confess his passion? Will Glen finish his book on Thomas Hardy, and vie for Beth’s love? Will Andy keep on with his barmaid sweetie, or try to win back his old flame Tamara (and perhaps get his ancestral farmhouse back in the bargain)? Will the teenage girls ever get to meet the rock drummer? And will that obnoxious boxer dog ever stop harassing those cows?
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