In her debut as a feature film writer and director, Sandra Goldbacher has fashioned a beautifully crafted drama set in England during the 1840s about feminine intuition, creativity, and passion. When her father, a wealthy Jewish merchant in London, dies, Rosina (Minnie Driver) is determined to take care of her mother and sister. Always interested in acting, she decides to pass herself off as Mary Blackchurch, a Christian governess. The wealthy Cavendish family, who live on a remote Scottish island, hire her to look after Clementina (Florence Hoath) who is starved for attention. The head of the household, Charles (Tom Wilkinson), is a scientist who is obsessed with the new art form of photography. His wife (Harriet Walter) and his troubled son (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) hold no interest whatsoever for him.
When Mary expresses curiosity about his work, he lets her become his laboratory assistant. Much to his dismay, she discovers a way to fix his images on paper. They begin a sexual liaison which is eventually exposed by his jealous son. Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting) gives a tour de force performance as a determined young woman whose artistic, spiritual, and sexual sensitivities are awakened during her stay at the Cavendishes. The Governess is a soulful drama.