Disillusioned artist Brad Morahan (James Mason) escapes New York for his Australian homeland seeking solitude but instead discovers alcoholic Ma Ryan (Neva Carr-Glyn) and her granddaughter Cora (Helen Mirren), who sits as his model.
A visit from old acquaintance Nat Kelly (Jack MacGowran) ends with Kelly stealing $300 from Brad before leaving the island in a stolen boat.
Ma discovers Brad has been sketching her granddaughter and in an argument with Cora, the old woman falls from a cliff and is killed.
The police investigation finds that the fall was an accident, and Cora offers Brad her money to make up for that stolen by Kelly. Brad refuses, realising that the girl has restored meaning to his work and life.
When Kelly is apprehended and the money returned, Brad and Cora are left to themselves at last.