It's said that sex and religion are two subjects that no one can discuss without arguing; writer/director Jane Campion tackles both head-on in this satiric comedy drama. On a trip to India, Australian Ruth (Kate Winslet) has a spiritual awakening and embraces the teachings of a guru named Baba. Back home in Sydney, Ruth's mother and father (Julie Hamilton and Tim Robertson) are appalled to learn that their daughter now answers to the name Nazni and has no intention of returning. Mother visits her daughter in India in hopes of convincing her to come home, but it's not until she suffers a life-threatening asthma attack that Ruth agrees to return for a visit. Mother pretends to arrange a meeting with Ruth's father, who has been ill, and this trick lands Ruth in the clutches of P.J. Waters (Harvey Keitel), an American exit counselor who deprograms members of religious cults. Waters begins to loosen Ruth's belief in Baba's teachings, but P.J. finds himself sexually attracted to Ruth, and in time she allows him to seduce her. Ruth soon turns the tables on P.J., as she discovers that sex allows her to make mincemeat of his long-held beliefs as a macho, misogynist male. Jane's sister Anna Campion, herself a director, co-authored the screenplay; Pam Grier appears in a supporting role as P.J.'s partner and girlfriend.
by Mark Deming synopsis