Bess McNeill (Emily Watson in her breakthrough role) lives a calm and quaint Christian life amongst the Scottish Highlands. Despite the unease of her local community and church, she marries the love of her life, a Norwegian oilrig worker, Jan (Stellan Skarsgård), who is often away working for long periods of time.
Lonely and besotted, Bess prays for his quick return. A wish that is granted when an accident occurs on the rig paralysing Jan. He is flown back to the Scottish mainland.
A moving and uplifting but brutal assessment of love, faith, social pressure and human dignity, Breaking the Waves earned an Oscar nomination for Emily Watson and demonstrated to the world the power of Lars von Trier's filmmaking ability.