When Henry Dashwood dies unexpectedly, his estate must pass on by law to his son from his first marriage, John and wife Fanny. But these circumstances leave Mr. Dashwood's current wife, and daughters Elinor, Marianne and Margaret, without a home and with barely enough money to live on. Though John and Fanny inherit the family's vast estate, it is Fanny's shy, charming brother Edward who captures Elinor's heart. But before Elinor and Edward have a chance to express their tentative feelings for each other, Fanny contrives an excuse to send Edward off to London. Marianne, meanwhile, becomes swept up in a passionate affair with the dashing Willoughby, a very public romance conducted with so little prudence by Marianne that it earns her sister's disapproval. As Elinor and Marianne struggle to find romantic fulfillment in a society obsessed with financial and social status, they must learn to mix sense with sensibility in their dealings with both money and men.