Reserved, eccentric Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) loves trains. He spends his time train-spotting at stations, and curating his collection of timetables. It’s when travelling on a train that he meets Patti (Nicole Kidman), a beautiful woman who isn’t put off by his shyness. One whirlwind romance later, and the two are married.
But Eric has a secret, and as they settle into their life together, Patti discovers that he’s a haunted man. He’s dogged by horrifying nightmares and flashbacks, and though he won’t tell her what’s wrong, his friend Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård) agrees to reveal the truth. As young men, they were taken prisoner during the Second World War and forced to work on the notorious Thai-Burma railway.
The young Eric (Jeremy Irvine) and his friends secretly built a radio in the prison camp, and were caught in the act by their Japanese captors. What followed would leave Eric with deep physical and emotional scars – including an enduring hatred for a man called Nagase (Tanroh Ishida/Hiroyuki Sanada). Can Patti help Eric to untangle the pain of the past, and find some kind of peace?