The film transplants the action from Russia to the English north east of the 19th century. Pugh plays Katherine, a beautiful young woman who has been married off to Alexander, the morose and sexually inadequate son of a wealthy mine owner, Boris. It is Boris who rules the roost and gloweringly insists on Katherine being a demure and submissive wife. As for Alexander, his face is not even revealed to us until the unwatchable catastrophic wedding night: he is essentially weak, bullied and victimized by his monstrous father. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a young worker on her husband’s estate, a force is unleashed inside her, so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
In 1961, mathematician Katherine Goble works as a “computer” in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center. Following a successful Russian satellite launch, pressure to send American astronauts into space increases. White supervisor Vivian Mitchell assigns Katherine to assist the Space Task Group of Al Harrison due to her skills in analytic geometry. She becomes the first coloured woman in the team – and in the building, which has no bathrooms for coloured people. Katherine’s struggles to win respect from her colleagues and boss.
Winfried Conradi is a divorced music teacher, an old-age hippie of sorts, with a passion for bizarre pranks involving several fake personas. Following the death of his beloved dog, he decides to reconnect with his daughter, Ines, who is pursuing a career in business consulting. She is consumed by her work and seems to have little time for her family, least of all her father. Winfried chases his career-focussed daughter around the world interfering with her life while disguised as the titular Erdmann.