The film details the travails of a working-class family in London's East End, struggling to stay afloat during the recession under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's premiership. Only the mother Mavis (Pam Ferris) is working; father Frank (Jeff Robert) and the couple's two sons Colin (Tim Roth), a timid, chronically shy individual and Mark (Phil Daniels), an outspoken, headstrong young man, are on the dole. This situation is contrasted by the presence of Mavis's sister Barbara (Marion Bailey), and her husband John (Alfred Molina), whose financial and social loftiness, in suburban Chigwell, appears to be a comfortable facade over the unspoken soreness of a lacklustre marriage.
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