Following the death of her mum, young optician Hortense Cumberbatch (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) decides to seek out her birth mother, whom she is surprised to discover is white. Elsewhere, factory worker Cynthia Purley (Brenda Blethyn) lives with her sulky 20-year-old daughter Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook) and has a fraught relationship with her younger brother Maurice (Timothy Spall), who runs his own photography business, and his wife Monica (Phyllis Logan). Cynthia then gets a phone call from Hortense, who tells her that she is the daughter she gave up for adoption as a teenager. Things come to a head when Cynthia invites Hortense to Roxanne's 21st birthday party at Maurice and Monica's, suggesting that she pose as a friend from work.
This film provides examples of:
- Armor-Piercing Question: Cynthia to Maurice:"You're never going to make me an auntie, then?"
- The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: The cause of Monica's infertility is never mentioned, although some have speculated that it might have been endometriosis.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: Cynthia thinks that Maurice and Monica don't have children because Monica doesn't want any while Maurice does. Going by the way she tries to cut her mother off when she confronts Monica, Roxanne has probably already cottoned on to the real reason.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Cynthia had two unplanned pregnancies, while Maurice and Monica tried to have kids for 15 years with no success.
- Like a Son to Me: Maurice and Monica, despite not having seen her in a long time, are very fond of Roxanne, partly to compensate for not having any children of their own.
- The '90s: The decor in the suburban Purley house is quite a sight to behold.
- Surprisingly Happy Ending: Once Roxanne gets over the shock of finding out about Hortense, she actually starts to warm up to the idea of having her as her half-sister.
- Verbal Tic: Cynthia has a tendency to call everyone "sweetheart", especially when agitated.