Classics professor Coleman Silk resigns from his college when he is accused - quite ridiculously - of racism. When his wife dies, he begins an affair with Faunia, a younger woman who is being threatened by her ex-husband. As their passions intensify, a secret from Coleman's past can be hidden no longer.
PC or not PC? That is the question asked by novelist Philip Roth in his splendid follow-up to American Pastoral and I Married A Communist, and repeated here to somewhat less effect by the movie version.
It's there in the contextual time frame - idle chatter refers to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal - and it's there in the ambiguity of the word 'spooks', which costs college professor Coleman Silk (Hoskins) his job when he uses it to describe two absent African-American students whose seats remain unoccupied in a ghostly manner.
Sensitive issues of moral hypocrisy and personal identity become secondary, however, when the generation gap love affair takes over. The race dimension rises to the surface again in more melodramatic form later on, but be warned - it's better for audiences to remain ignorant of this twist until confronted by it on screen.
Performances are good but the film suffers from having the same Miramax Oscar sheen that coated Chocolat, The Shipping News and The Cider House Rules.