In American Friends, Michael Palin plays the Reverend Francis Ashby, senior tutor at St. John's College, Oxford, in 1861. This middle-aged and reserved bachelor is quite surprised by the attention he receives from two American women while on holiday in Switzerland. Although he enjoys chatting with Caroline Hartley (Connie Booth), his real interest is sparked by her 18-year-old ward Elinor (Trini Alvarado). When the president of the school becomes ill, Ashby returns to Oxford where he is considered to be the logical successor. Instead, his emotions are captured by a visit from Caroline and Elinor.

Tristram Powell directs this drama based on the true story of Michael Palin's great-grandfather. Unable to deny himself the sacred pleasures of marriage, the Reverend Ashby tossed aside his career in order to wed Elinor. This delightful portrait of cross-cultural love speaks softly but carries a lingering scent.