Tim Melville (Mel Gibson) is a 24-year-old builder’s labourer and part-time gardener described by his loving father as “not the full quid”.
He cannot read or write and his parents have disclosed to him the workings of a lawnmower but not the facts of life and death.
Raking leaves from the garden of Ms Mary Horton (Piper Laurie) in shorts so skimpy they are just short of illegal, Tim wins her interest and sympathy and she starts him off reading The Wind in the Willows.
He likes it, and he likes her – as he keeps on saying. He also likes creamy cake and sugary tea. Also Mum’s cooking and the beer he has with Dad.
Against opposition from his sister Dawnie (Deborah Kennedy), Mary takes Tim off to her Palm Beach shack and they frolic on the sand like two kids in a TV commercial.
This idyll might have gone on indefinitely but for a family tragedy. Mum (Pat Evison) dies and then Dad (Alwyn Kurts) dies and Mary obviously has to look after Tim.
But in spite of what father said, Tim very much is the full quid. He may not be Einstein but he is all there.
There are questions to be asked: If Tim watches all those Westerns on the telly (as he does), how is it that he doesn’t notice that people die? How has he got to be a handsome 24 without feeling the stirrings of passion? Even if he were shy, would not some carefree beach girl have chased him and caught him behind the surf sheds on a dark night?