Like many Irishmen before him, Pat O'Connor left his homeland as a young man to seek his fame and fortune. Immigrating first to London and then the USA, he eventually attended UCLA as an undergraduate and then went on to graduate work in film at Toronto's Ryerson Polytech. After nearly decade away from Ireland, O'Connor returned, armed with his degrees, and began his career in earnest as a trainee with Radio Telefis Eirann (RTE). Graduating first to producing and directing documentaries, he segued to dramatic programs before heading to London and a job with the BBC. In 1981, O'Connor produced and directed the award-winning TV drama "The Ballroom of Romance". Subsequently, he turned his attentions to the big screen with the uncompromising political romance/thriller "Cal" (1984) set against the backdrop of the "troubles" in Northern Ireland. The film featured strong lead performances (from John Lynch in the title role and particularly Helen Mirren as the Italian widow of the British officer he has killed) which have come to be a hallmark of O'Connor's work. "A Month in the Country" (1987) proved to be a studied, atmospheric drama about a WWI veteran who finds himself falling in love with a rector's wife. Again, the director elicited strong central portrayals from Colin Firth (as the soldier), Kenneth Branagh (as the cleric) and Natasha Richardson (as the cleric's wife).