In 1935 England, 13-year-old Briony Tallis, the youngest daughter of the wealthy Tallis family, is set to perform a play she has written for an upcoming family gathering. Looking out of her bedroom window, she spies on her older sister, Cecilia, and the housekeeper's son, Robbie Turner, on whom Briony has a crush. During their argument near the fountain, Robbie accidentally breaks a vase and yells at Cecilia to stay where she is – so as to avoid cutting her feet on the broken pieces on the ground. Still angered, Cecilia then strips off her outer clothing, stares at him and climbs into the basin to retrieve one of the pieces. Briony misinterprets the scene as Robbie ordering her sister to undress and get in the water.