The break-up of a marriage is a terrible thing. The pain can be devastating, the separation very unsettling. Such is the case when John (John Hargreaves), a composer who hosts a classical music program on Melbourne radio station, learns that Helen (Wendy Hughes), his wife of 10 years, wants to leave him to start a new life on her own with their young daughter Lucy. Worse still, John later discovers that his wife has been having an affair with his best friend.

In this claustrophobic and intense film (winner of three 1984 Australian Academy Awards), director Paul Cox presents a wrenching account of John's crackup following Helen's departure. The drama forcefully depicts his emotional turmoil as he flounders from disbelief to jealousy, anger, revenge and despair. An attempted suicide brings Helen back, but she stil can't bear to have sex with him. He kidnaps Lucy but returns her to her mother. John — sad, sick and afraid of the future — is at the end of his rope.

Only when he learns from his dying father that his mother once left him for anther man does John find the wherewithal to stop emoting and begin to see his situation clearly. John Hargreaves' performance is a tour de force study of a man unhinged by a collapse of his marriage. As in Lonely Hearts and Man of Flowers, Paul Cox demonstrates a unique capacity to translate feelings of loneliness into affecting imagery. Here trains in transit and birds in flight effectively capture this husband's inner angst.