This powerful Oscar-nominated period drama, directed by Peter Webber, is based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier and tells the fictional story behind Vermeer's famous, mysterious painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring.
Delft, Holland, 1665. After her father, a tile painter, is blinded in a kiln explosion, 17-year-old Griet (Scarlett Johansson) must work to support her family. She becomes a maid in the house of Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) and gradually attracts the master painter's attention.
Though worlds apart in upbringing, education and social standing, Vermeer recognises Griet's intuitive understanding of colour and light and slowly draws her into the mysterious world of his paintings.
Vermeer is a perfectionist, often taking months to finish a painting. His shrewd mother-in-law, Maria Thins (Judy Parfitt), struggles to maintain the family's lavish lifestyle on the income from his painstakingly meagre output. Seeing that Griet inspires Vermeer, she takes the dangerous decision to allow their clandestine relationship to develop.
Plunged into a chaotic Catholic household run by Vermeer's volatile wife Catharina (Essie Davis), surrounded by an ever-increasing brood of children, Griet is increasingly at risk of exposure or worse.
Twelve-year-old Cornelia (Alakina Mann), a mischevious girl who sees more than she should, quickly grows jealous and suspicious of Griet and is determined to cause trouble.
Alone and unprotected, Griet also contends with the attentions of Pieter (Cillian Murphy), a local butcher boy, and Vermeer's patron, the wealthy and lascivious Master van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson), who is frustrated that his money does not buy him control over the artist. While Griet falls increasingly under Vermeer's spell, she cannot be sure of his feelings for her.
The Machiavellian van Ruijven, sensing the intimacy between master and maid, gleefully contrives a commission for Vermeer to paint Griet alone. The result will be one of the greatest paintings ever created, but at what cost?